Jamy Ian Swiss has long been recognized as a force to be dealt with in the world of magic. Intelligent, well-informed, thoughtful, volatile, inspiring, infuriating, articulate, skilled - these are a few of the words used to describe Swiss and his writing. When his first collection of essays on magic, Shattering Illusions, appeared, it received high praise from magicians and trade reviewers alike. This attention broke into public notice with an unprecedented and laudatory review in the Los Angeles Times. Swiss's opinions and evaluations come with the imprimatur of a successful full-time performer who is also a devoted student of the craft and history of conjuring. Among his many credits are appearances on The Today Show, CBS's 48 Hours, PBS's Nova and repeat appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. His clients include Fortune 500 companies and the Smithsonian Institution. He has consulted for such talents as Penn & Teller and Marco Tempest, and has been extensively profiled in the New Yorker. His writings will frustrate those who believe magic theory spills from an ivory tower. Swiss writes from a position of long experience as a performer, and as one who is intimate with many of today's greatest professional magicians.
In Devious Standards, Mr. Swiss has gathered together some of his most recent, insightful, challenging and poignant explorations into the performance of magic and its practitioners. These essays include some of his most trenchant thinking about what constitutes a great magic performance and what hinders it. They include "The Method Is Not the Trick", "Discovering Importance", "Empathy", "A Dissertation on the Double Lift", "The JS Rules of Magic" and "The Last Layman".
Also included are recollective studies - part homage, part analysis - of four of magic's past masters: Martin Nash, Derek Dingle, Bob Read and Billy McComb.
Devious Standards is a book written for those who aspire to better magic, and for those who love the best in magic. It maps the pathway from craft to art, for those with the courage to take it.
230 pages in bibliophilic hardcover.
Vanishing Inc. interview with publisher Stephen Minch
Vanishing Inc: Devious Standards is the second book you have published by Jamy Ian Swiss, a controversial and regarded writer in magic. Tell us about how this book came about, and how you work with a subject like Mr. Swiss on fine-tuning a book of essays.
Stephen Minch: Jamy is among the finest essayists in magic today, and he brings to his essays a thorough knowledge of magic, its literature and his own impressive performing experience. Even when you don't agree with some of his views, he forces you to assess your own, to think more deeply about them. That is an extremely valuable service, and a rarely exercised one. Jamy has produced an impressive body of essays, which are scattered in journals. We made a selection from this body of work, then updated and polished it. I've always enjoyed working with Jamy, as we share mutual interests and respect. This makes collaboration as pleasant as it is productive.
Vanishing Inc: Is there one essay that you find most valuable in this collection? Did he take any positions that surprise you?
Stephen Minch: Singling out one essay as most valuable is impossible, as there are so many genuinely important pieces. "Discovering Importance" and "Empathy", though, do spring readily to mind. They aren't better than the rest, but I'm very taken with the thoughts in them. I can't recall being overly surprised by any of Jamy's positions on magic. After all, I've been reading his writing for years. I was, though, often surprised at some of his insights and analyses when tackling big topics. Oh, there was one thing that really surprised me. He gives the impression that he doesn't like the music of Yello. But I don't think that can be right. I think he just doesn't like the way magicians have misused it in their acts. How can you not like Yello?