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The Secret History of Magic: The True Story of the Deceptive Art
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The Secret History of Magic: The True Story of the Deceptive Art

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Pull back the curtain on the real history of magic - and discover why magic really matters

If you read a standard history of magic, you learn that it begins in ancient Egypt, with the resurrection of a goose in front of the Pharaoh. You discover how magicians were tortured and killed during the age of witchcraft. You are told how conjuring tricks were used to quell rebellio
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 17th 2018 by Tarcherperigee
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Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  89 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm giving this 3 stars but barely. Barely. The topic interests me, the blurb sounded great, and both authors have published before. (My edition says authors are Peter Lamont and Jim Steinmeyer--the first of whom had a NYTimes book of the year about this topic). But boy was this executed poorly. The first half is really dreadful. So bad I actually kept reading in disbelief. It says nothing, and yet says it over and over again. Here's an example:

This is the purpose of magic: to astonish us. We t
Michelle Curie
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, history
"They completely miss the point of magic, because magic is not a puzzle. Puzzles are supposed to be figured out. That is the purpose of puzzles. The purpose of magic is the seemingly impossible."

I can't pretend that magic tricks play an important role in my life, yet I'm curious about them. They're magic, after all! Inexplicable, fascinating and seemingly impossible. When I saw this book lurking next to one I was about to pick up from the library, I was too curious to resist not taking it ho
Richard Kaufman
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a writer and scholar of magic, I am blown away by what Jim Steinmeyer and Peter Lamont have done in this book. Few new books illuminate what we think of as "settled" history in our field. This book blows up the settled history of magic, and our craft will be all the better for it. To evolve and learn, the past has to be excavated anew. The authors have excavated, and the rest of us will learn and magic will evolve. Bravo. ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: giveaways-vro
Got a free copy from a giveaway. Sadly, the book was not as interesting or entertaining as I thought it was going to be. I spent a large portion of the beginning of the book thinking that the author seemed like a student who had to write a paper for a subject that they didn't enjoy/choose to take and didn't work very hard on and just repeated the same stuff over and over in different ways just to reach the professor's required length. ...more
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Love secrets? History? Magic? Then 'The Secret History of Magic' should indicate a slam dunk, right?
Classic misdirection.
If you are new to the origin stories of magic, this does not seem like the intro text. Interesting stuff like the first 'sawed in half' acts, the surprisingly recent 'rabbit from hat' meme, are included here. But the presentation feels more like a treasure hunt, to be searched for.
Sean Belt
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Ok. Not as good as the NY Times led me to believe.
Steve Gross
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
atrocious writing, which is a surprise because Steinmeyer is a decent writer. Lots of verbiage saying nothing.
A good general introduction to the subject.

Although occasionally infected with Cultural Marxism (critical theory meets postmodernism with a view to Identitarianism) this does not overwhelm it.

Not a history of Wicca but of various forms of stage magic.

One quibble would be is that it does not spend near enough time on Ancient Magic and how it grew out of primal culture needs to control their environment.

Still, a solid introduction to the history of magic.

Worth a read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Craig Williams
Sep 03, 2020 rated it liked it
An exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) history of conjurors, illusionists, mindreaders, escape artists, and anyone in show business that calls themselves a magician. While much of the book feels like it could have been more concise, especially the first and last chapter, which seems to gratuitously repeat the main thesis of the book to the point of almost writing in circles, there are some fun factoids and magic trivia that makes it a decent read for the curious (such as myself) and a must-rea ...more
Decently diverting, but not much new information if you know anything about magic history (not so secret) and too much new information if you know nothing about magic history (incohesive to the point of incoherent.) Both authors are great magic historians but their other books instead.
Ryan Jones
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great book and interesting insights
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well researched revisionist history of magicians. Mostly of interest to magicians who have read all the classic histories of magic.
Heather G
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of information

There was a lot of info in this book. Some was interesting, some was dry but for the most part it was good.
Apr 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Step aside! This is the true history. And it will contain data about unwritten sources based on the testimony of deceptive persons. True indeed. Or just a failed novel with way too many characters.
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