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Preview — Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer
Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear
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My favorite part of the book was the technical description of how the tricks were performed,...more
It is clear that Steinmeyer is not the greatest non-fiction writer out there. His chapters do not work like chapters should because they are not divided by topics of themes. For example, for the chapter titled Houdini, we get eight pages (I counted) on Charles Morritt and his mirror illusions before Houdini even makes an app...more
The format is kind of a mess. I got worried when I saw the little oval pictures and bio information of the various magicians listed in the front -- "He's lumping a lot of basic info up front, in this 'cast of characters,'" I thought. "I bet the structure of this book is going to be all...more
A historical introduction to the famous illusionists. Harry Houdini, another Hungarian, was a prominent Magician included.
I enjoyed how the author himself was a person who invented magic tricks for others to use. With all his research it led him to this book that is a historical presentation that reminded me of "The Devil in the White City" in how it would build up amazing attractions without disclosing what they were. It all led to the final...more
A decent, if somewhat tangled, history of mostly American and English magicians of the later 1800s and earlier 1900s. So many of the stories intertwine that I had some difficulty in keeping who's who straight, especially towards the end when Steinmeyer is wrapping up his loose threads and jumping around a bit in time. That said, the personal background to the...more
The personalities of the performers, how they came to be magicians and the lengths they would go to to steal tricks was so interesting. The mechanics behind the illusions...more
Interesting look at early 20th century magic. Some of the concepts involved, mirrors, light tricks, trapdoors, are now hundreds of years old but to see them in the hands of a great magician would still make your jaw drop.
It's not a book of magic secrets either, though you will learn some secrets in the process of reading it.
It does give you the flavor of stage magic of the day. The effects, sure, but also personalities, egos, rivalries, successions. There are lots of interesting characters in the world of magic and I enjoyed having a look at them from the wings.
This book offers a small taste...more
There's some drawing back of the curtains; (including the titular trick) however, learning how it's done makes me appreciate the artistry of the performances even more. I found the ingenuity of these men compel...more
Beginning with a mystery-to-this-day Houdini miracle from the pinnacle of his career, The Vanishing Elephant, Steinmeyer jumps backward in time, in a hybrid of a James Burke "Connections" episode and historical biography, to trace the evolution of an ever-mystifying-to-audiences class of stage illusion.
Each chapter documents a step, whether incremental progress, set-back, near-miss, or breakthrough, by the contributing magicians, ranging from world-renowned larger-than-life personalities to the...more
This book covers the development of stage magic, primarily in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and is particularly focused on the dominan...more
This book takes you from the origins of illusions through Houdini vanishing an elephant from the middle of an empty stage. You learn plenty of magic secrets in this book. But the best part is seeing how one illusion builds on another and how the personalities, rivalries, and plain ingenuity of magicians throughout the 1800s...more
There's lots of background on various magicians, details on how they constructed their paraphernalia, and the reader comes away with an heightened understanding and appreciation of magic as an art with its past master...more
It gives away just enough secrets to be interesting and keeps just enough secrets to remain mysterious. Excellently presented.
From the forward: "Hiding the Elephant is less like a history book than like an unforgettable all-night conversation with a fascinating stranger....more
Very readable and edifying.
It doesn't give away all the tricks but does explain some of the common principles and mis-directions.
Worth reading if you want a change from regular fiction.