Edward Marlo Study Guide
By Andi Gladwin - Thursday, November 7, 2019
In my Astonishing Essay I write about studying a particular magician's worth in great detail. Having scrupulously read through many of Ed's books and learned an uncountable number of his effects and techniques, I thought I would give some tips on how I would suggest reading Marlo's work.
Take it one step at a time
Marlo caters for everyone - he has published simple self-working effects, right to knuckle bleeding riffle stacking that would make even the hardcore rockers cry. So, if you start reading a Marlo effect that looks too difficult, do not dismiss the entire book, simply move onto an effect that appears more within your current range.
Taking this approach will also allow you to experience new Marlo material as you advance in magic. My Marlo books never age since I keep looking back at them and discovering more Marlo wonders that I can perform after I have mastered new sleights.
If you're looking for easy Marlo magic, you might enjoy Marlo Without Tears, which is a book of Marlo's easier card magic. I'll warn you though - the magic in that book isn't Marlo's best. For that, I'd recommend The Cardician and Marlo In Spades, both of which are his earlier books that contain magic that isn't too difficult. Those books are available as part of Marlo's Cardially Yours, Volume 2.
It might be dry, but it's worth it
Many people find Marlo's straight-to-the-point writing to by dry and lifeless, and in all honesty, it is. However, if you have a definite passion for card magic, I am certain that you will soon acquire the ability to look beyond the text and into what is important - the magic.
If you find Marlo's material difficult to read, you may like to watch one of the few tapes and DVDs of his work. Once you see the man perform these miracles, you come to appreciate the sheer talent and love he had for magic. Jon Racherbaumer has described more of Ed Marlo's effects than anyone, and he states that "It's been my goal to infuse my writings with the same kind of enthusiasm and spirit evoked by Marlo's actual performances; to somehow show Marlo's marvellous thinking, while giving a vicarious sense of life to the dead reckoning of dry, technical prose."
Read each method
Marlo's books are collections of his notebooks. He almost always wrote ideas for effects on scraps of paper and later had his friends and students write them up for him. So, when you read one of his books, you are likely going to be presented with three or four methods for the same effect. Just because there are so many, it doesn't mean that one is better than the other. However, you may find that one of the methods feels more comfortable for you. Also, feel free to combine Marlo's work to create a method that better suits your hands as I am sure Marlo would have loved to have seen his students take this approach.
On this topic, I often hear people state that Marlo published every method that he created for his effects - even the bad ones so that he could beat everyone else to it. However, if you carefully analyse each of his methods you will find a smaller number of bad methods than you would first expect from someone with so much material to his credit. By reading all of his methods, you will also gain an understanding that Marlo's aim was to explore as many areas as possible, not to irritate others by publishing material so that he could claim credit on it. Marlo's passion was for experimenting and problem solving with the pasteboards and this is really evident through some of his more technical books.
Work with cards in hand
Reading Marlo without a deck of cards is like playing soccer without a ball. As I have explained, much of Marlo's work is dry to read, but if you work through his explanations, they start to gain life and provide you with reason for reading. You'll also get a feel of how Marlo approached a problem with a deck in your hands since you'll be more inclined to work through his methods.
It's not just about the cards
Don't make the mistake of thinking that Marlo solely concentrated on the pasteboards - quite the opposite in fact. Marlo has several small booklets published by Magic Inc. that focus on coins, dice and the like. In fact, if you hunt carefully, you'll even find a Ball and Vase effect published in Hierophant magazine.
Don't dismiss the material because you have never seen it performed
Often, if I want to have some fun and fool a magician, I will use a Marlo effect. Because so few people have seen any of his material actually performed, its great fun to use, because most magicians wouldn't have seen the effect in real life since there is so much Marlo material. Normally after I have performed the effect, people become more interested and want to learn it.
If you have to see an effect performed to realise its strength, you don't have to rely on someone else to perform it first. I would suggest reading an effect and if you feel it has merit, learn it and try it out when you're feeling confident with it. Of course, if it isn't as good as you initially thought, you can have some fun in improving it until it does receive your expected reaction.
My point here is that just because you haven't seen someone perform a certain Marlo effect before, it doesn't mean that it's bad.
Don't just read the books
Marlo published material in pretty much all of the major magic magazines of his day and his unpublished material is still slowly being passed on in current magic magazines. So, if you can get hold of the older magazines (many of which have been republished in bound form), I highly suggest you do so. The list of magazines that Marlo contributed to is endless so I am certain that you will not have a problem tracking down at least a few of them.
Watch him perform
Every time I watch Marlo on video, I realise how much more work I have to do. Imagine performing a sleight so well that no-one even suspects, let alone detects it. Marlo was a perfectionist and unless you were lucky enough to see him perform in person (I was not), it's not until you watch his videos that you realise this.
Watching a magician perform with so much talent and passion is such an extraordinarily rare treat.
Watching Marlo execute his sleights is an education for every magician. Whether you're a hard core card magician, or a kids entertainer, watching a magician perform with so much talent and passion is such an extraordinarily rare treat. He really could walk-the-walk. We published a previously-unseen lecture that is well worth a watch.
Don't fall into the "Marlo Vs Vernon" trap
I've heard it all too often: "I prefer Vernon's work to Marlo's" and vice versa. This suggests that you can only study one or the other and that is flawed in so many ways. If you're serious about card magic, there's enough time to study both. And while you could compare their approaches, you'll likely find it far more fruitful to consider what you can learn from each of them.
Talk to his students & friends
Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to meet almost all of the living Marlo students and every single one of them have had a wealth of anecdotes about the man himself. They were also able to identify some of his best effects and moves based on what they saw him perform during their time with him.
Also, although they (understandably) hang onto them until their fists turn blue, several of the Marlo students have videotapes of Marlo performing. If you ever manage to persuade one of them to give you a private viewing, you will never forget it. You don't only get to understand his material, but you also learn a lot about the man himself.
Of course, meeting many of his students isn't practical, so if you aren't able to do that, I would sincerely suggest reading their books, since a large majority of his students have gone on to be well known magicians themselves.
Don't obsess over the rare
I spent many years trying to acquire the six-volume Marlo Magazines (each volume being a 300+ page book), Marlo's little-known Ten-Card Poker Deal book, and more. But with so many other easily-available Marlo books, I'd urge you to read those before progressing to the rare, more expensive books.
These brief tips are aimed to inspire you to spend some time investigating what Marlo can do for you. Should you want to read further thoughts on studying Marlo, you won't go far wrong reading David Solomon's suggestions in Marlo's Magazine Volume 3 (1979). Although, your main challenge will be tracking down a copy of the magazine.
I hope this has inspired you to dust off that old Marlo book that you have locked away in the cupboard.
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