The Close-Up Magic of Aldo Colombini by Aldo Colombini
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii October, 1994)
L&L Publishing continues to build their catalog of "name" contributors with this volume
from the popular Italian performer, Aldo Colombini. His reputation is that of a
delightful magical entertainer—as charming off stage as on—but unfortunately, this
volume does not reflect these qualities.
This book is a collection of 60 tricks, mostly with cards, along with an assortment of
some non-card material including Cups and Balls, coins, rubber bands, rings, ring and
rope, and billiard balls, most of which rely upon fairly basic technical requirements. Mr.
Colombini prefers subtlety over sleights, and simplified sleights over challenging ones.
Hence, within its covers, the reader will find variants of popular contemporary card
conjuring plots, such as Vernon's Triumph, Curry's Out of This World, Searles' Cannibal
Cards, and so on, all achieved with a minimum of technical effort. The more advanced
student may find that much of this material pays the price for such simplified solutions.
How many times, for example, can you use a Biddle Count before an audience sees what
a contrived and unconvincing technique it is? Still, there are fine tricks here, including
Never Say Dice, wherein three face-down cards seem to follow the changing values of
the dice resting upon their backs; Havana Sandwich, a clever repeat sandwich routine; and The Rubber Illusion, wherein a sandwiched picture card first stretches in length and
then shrinks to become a miniature.
There is benefit in some of Mr. Colombini's simplified approaches, but this book fails in
other, more important ways, the bulk of which apparently has little to do with either the
author or his material. Much of the blame must be laid on the editors. Although two are
listed, one can only wonder what service they provided. English is Mr. Colombini's
second language, so he needs capable editorial partners to best present his work. Yet the
prose remains stilted, the descriptions are meager, and the text reads more like lecture
notes than a hardcover book. However simple the methods, Colombini's material
deserves careful description, especially for beginners. Instead, many neophytes will
scratch their heads trying to decipher the descriptions. The "Ireland Shuffle" may be
well known to the intermediate and advanced student, but it certainly warrants
description here. And what is any student, beginner or advanced, to make of
instructions telling the reader to tip a cup forward, "...as the right fingers steal the ball
under the cup." (sic) One might just as well have written, "Please invent your own
To say the book is poorly designed would be a compliment; it seems not to be designed
at all. There is no continuous design element from page to page, with the sole exception
of the pagination. A few clicks of the mouse could have cut many of the most obvious
design blunders. Book titles pop up in upper case bold type, trick titles are in upper case,
and sleight titles appear in all manner of type combinations, a level of design unfair to
both reader and author. Such a lack of effort is acceptable in a spiral-bound set of
lecture notes selling for half this price, but not here. The real mystery is how an
important publishing house that has produced the exemplary Elmsley books, and the
exquisite volume, Carneycopia, can end up with such an inconsistent production as this
Tom Jorgenson's illustrations represent the one interesting design note, albeit a mixed
one. The actual drawings are splendid, skillfully produced with a delicate eye for detail.
Unfortunately, the artist uses a visual theme of borders and frames that, while perhaps
pretty and even occasionally clever, is needlessly confusing, and at times
counterproductive. It is frustrating to see such an odd mix of superlative ability and
unfortunate choices, but I certainly look forward to seeing more of Mr. Jorgenson's work
in the future.
I offer a limited recommendation of this book to those whose tastes and interests will be
drawn to the type of material I have described—potentially commercial close-up magic,
mostly card material, without demanding technical requirements. The legitimate value
of such material could have been much better presented had the author, clearly a
capable talent, been better served by his associates. I look forward to more of Mr.
Colombini's contributions to our field, and hope that his writing efforts will be better
served in the future.