A few of my friends have asked me, after reading an advance copy of Private Performance, whether magicians are going to be upset with me.
To a romance novelist, the word ‘exposure’ has delectable connotations, but to a magician it’s deadly. If you ever want to get a magi’s heart rate up (and not in a good way), remind them of that FOX series “Breaking the Magician’s Code.” It exposed the methods of many popular illusions. All in all, it was an ugly affair.
So where do I get off talking about these secrets in my books? Well, for one thing, that FOX show was on TV, and its audience received it passively. “Oh,” a viewer might have said at the time, “so that’s how it’s done. Huh.”
Reading a book’s more intimate than that. A book’s the perfect place to learn some secrets.
Plus — how does the old phrase go? “If you ever want to keep a secret, put it in a book.” Everything you could ever want to learn about magic has already been published. Some old-school practitioners grumble, but it’s better this way. For one thing, it levels the playing field. Magic’s still such a boys’ club. Thanks to the Internet, it doesn’t have to be anymore. You don’t have to please some misogynist fart behind closed doors to learn some great tricks. Now you can hit up your favorite online retailer, or, to a lesser extent, just go to YouTube.
I’m not giving anything away in my book that isn’t already “out there” in one way or another.
So I mention flash paper. So I talk about “the pass.”
But the biggest thing I’m giving away is this: magicians have to practice. They go into a room and rehearse, like dancers, like singers, like athletes. They’ll do it over and over until they get it right. I’ve stayed up until 3 in the morning, practicing a single move. I looked at the clock and was flummoxed. I never lose track of time like that. I’ve talked to other magicians about it; they’ve had the same experience. We enter into a state of flow when we’re rehearsing. We can’t stop. We don’t want to stop.
And the real tragedy is that, when we’re done, we can’t show anyone. Oh, we can show them the trick. We love to do that. But the thing we practiced for hours and days and weeks and even months — the move itself — the beautiful, curious little move — has to stay hidden. Or else the magic doesn’t work.
Every good magician is burning to show you something they’re not allowed to.
Which is what Private Performance is. It’s the move you’re not supposed to see.