Fully Booked | Mnemonica
By Harapan Ong - Sunday, April 14, 2019
Although I have been using a memorised deck for close to a decade now, I have only begun seriously researching and studying memorised deck magic for the past two years or so. So, I feel rather intimidated by the idea of reviewing this book, simply because of three reasons:
It’s Juan Tamariz, probably the most well respected and highly regarded close up magician today.
It’s Mnemonica, arguably Juan’s seminal work and also the most popular memorised deck in the world.
I’m not sure if I am totally qualified to review and comment on memorised deck magic, especially since there are so many other insanely talented practitioners of the memorised deck out there that are way more qualified than I am to speak on this subject. People like Denis Behr, Pit Hartling, Simon Aronson, Michael Close…
Hence, I feel like if I say anything even with a slight negative slant to it about this book, I can expect a lot of hate coming my way, either questioning my knowledge about memorised decks or my disrespect for Juan.
However, I pride myself in giving honest reviews over here on FULLY BOOKED. I have met Juan before, and watching him perform for laypeople in his Spanish one-man show was an amazing experience. Therefore, let me be clear - anything I say here is not a personal attack on anyone, or any Juan. I am simply giving my honest opinion on the book, Mnemonica.
For those who are unfamiliar with what a memorised deck is, it is simply a deck of cards that the magician has committed to memory. In other words, every single card’s position in the deck is known to the magician. Based on this concept, a lot of very interesting, clever and baffling card magic can be achieved.
Mnemonica is often considered to be the “bible” of memorised deck magic. Juan Tamariz has compiled all of his work on the memorised deck into this single tome, and the heft of it is legitimately impressive. Of course, at the heart of the book is Juan’s own memorised deck, which is often dubbed the Tamariz stack or simply the Mnemonica stack.
The book itself has many chapters and sections, but in general you can expect three main topics. Juan starts by explaining the details of the Tamariz stack: what its features are compared to other stacks in history, as well as various techniques and tips on how to memorise the stack in the shortest time possible. He then goes into the routines possible with a memorised deck: about half of these routines are what we call stack-independent (meaning they will work with any memorised deck you use) whereas the other half are stack-dependent, and can only be done with the Tamariz stack. There is also a section at the back on applying memorised decks to other tricks, and as well as different tips to make it look like you’re mixing the deck, when you’re actually controlling the order of every card. There’s also a really comprehensive section on the different sleights that are usually commonplace with memorised deck work, like glimpses and and false shuffles and deck switches.
Now, the book itself is over 400 pages long, so you can expect that this book is an AMAZING investment. Just based on what I had described in the previous paragraph, if you are someone who is interested in learning memorised decks and memorised deck magic, this book is indeed a must-read. The amount of knowledge and content hidden within these pages is simply incredible, and Juan has done the magic community a huge favour by compiling so much of it in one single book. But more importantly, even if you’re not a fan of memorised deck work, I still feel like this book is a fantastic purchase, simply because of all the different plots, tricks, sleights and moves that Juan teaches in the book. Things like the false shuffles, the different glimpses and tips on making a deck look random can easily be applied to any of your other card routines that require these moves, so I think overall it is still very educational and informative for anyone serious about card magic. It’s not just a book for memorised deck geeks like myself - it is a book for everyone who is into card magic.
Now, for those who are interested in memorised deck magic but have not gotten around memorising one yet, I highly recommend checking out the section on Ultra-Rapid Memorisation that I had mentioned earlier in this review. Some of the techniques in there are legitimately helpful - I have personally used his Visual Method of drawing numbers on cards to help me memorise my stack, but he has other methods like Muscular Method, Conceptual Method and even an Auditory Method.
As for the tricks within the book, some highlights for me were:
Mnemonicosis: Probably Juan’s most well-known effect with a memorised deck. The trick can be done for one person, and is just as (or even more) effective when done for an entire theatre of people. It is an impossible, hands-off location of a freely named card. (Please note that in the performance video, I am using a different stack from Mnemonica. However, Mnemonicosis is a stack-independent trick that can be done with any stack.)
The Three Hours: Although this trick is credited to Simon Aronson and Ramon Rioboo, it is one of my favourite items in Mnemonica. Three spectators think of a card each, and you divine each card step by step without making any false statements or ask any fishing questions whatsoever.
Now, to wrap up this review, I would like to comment a little on the tricks within Mnemonica (you may wish to take out your pitchforks now…).
A word of caution: as I mentioned, Juan goes through both stack dependent and stack independent tricks in this book. The stack dependent tricks have quite a significant chunk of gambling routines (poker deals, bridge deals and so on), and others include tricks involving the Stay-Stack feature that is inbuilt into the Tamariz stack, or maybe some spelling or matching features that Tamariz and his friends have discovered in the stack. The rest of the tricks (which is a very significant portion) are just miscellaneous tricks involving “name-a-card” tricks or four of a kind productions, some of which are stack independent and some of which are stack dependent.
Here are my two small criticisms (or to put it less harshly, thoughts) on these tricks found in Mnemonica:
As you may know, the biggest feature that made the Tamariz stack so revolutionary was the new deck order feature: you can relatively easy get the deck from new deck order to the stack, and back to new deck order. Now, because of this feature, the order of the cards are pretty fixed and limited. What I mean by that is that while going through the tricks in Mnemonica, I was quite disappointed to see that quite a number of them require you to shift some cards around, or switch the positions of certain pairs of cards before the trick can begin. I am sure some practitioners of Mnemonica find this to be a small hassle, but it irks me quite a bit because I don’t think I can remember which cards to switch during the heat of a performance.
I was also disappointed by the fact that almost all the tricks in Mnemonica, especially the stack-independent ones, simply focus on the Open Index concept of a memorised deck. What I mean by that is that a lot the tricks revolve around the idea the many variations of someone naming a card, and you locating it. It could be a matching effect for a few selections, or it could be producing a four of a kind, but it is all based on the fact that you know where every card is, hence the deck is used as an “open index”. Now, of course, this is probably the most direct way of using a memorised deck. However, if you were to check out Aronson’s work on the memorised deck (for example, the free pdf Memories Are Made Of This), you will see that Simon has laid out five different concepts that can be exploited with a memorised deck, the Open Index being one of them. I am kind of surprised that the book does not go deeper into the other more esoteric uses of the memorised deck, which I think Aronson has explored in some ways. I was hoping to see Juan’s work on these other concepts, as opposed to just focusing on only the Open Index.
Therefore, my overall opinion on the book is this: This book is a definite must-read for everyone who is interested in memorised deck magic, and is also highly recommended for serious card magicians just because of it being a great reference book overall. However, this book does not represent ALL that can be done with a memorised deck. I would recommend anyone interested in this topic to not just stop with Mnemonica, but to go back further in history to hunt down other practitioners of the memorised deck - especially Simon Aronson.
The memorised deck is a powerful tool in the card magician’s arsenal, and I feel like despite all this literature, its true potential remains untouched. Mnemonica is a fantastic book that unlocks a brand new chapter in the history of the memorised deck, and I recommend that everyone should get this book.
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