Elements: the Lecture, the Book by Lance Pierce

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2011)

So if you're a cardician and you've been craving some serious new work of cardmanship, you might try these nicely produced lecture notes from Lance Pierce, the E LKMKNTS author of Roger Klause in Concert (L&L Publishing, 1991). In these pages he provides thorough descriptions of his detailed thinking about standards of contemporary card magic, including Persi Diaconis's "Les Carte Diaconis," John Bannon's "Mirage Assembly," Darwin Ortiz's version of "Wild Card," a David Solomon Oil & Water routine, and for coin workers, an approach to Geoffrey Latta's "Copsilbrass." Along with these thoughtful rehandlings and routinings, the author also provides several essays, along with some detailed technical handling for Mario's ATFUS move and the Side Steal.

Not every element here is likely to appeal to every reader, but for the serious cardician there is likely to be something here of interest and reward. The author eliminates what I consider to be the strongest moment in the Latta routine (which was partly inspired by a routine of Scotty York's), adding an additional phase that requires the addition of an Okito box, which I think overburdens the piece. In considering Diaconis's influential "Les Cartes Diaconis," Mr. Pierce poses many good questions, not the least of which concern the staging of the sequence of selections versus the sequence of the revelations, which do not readily match up due to technical and procedural details. This is a very good problem to address and contend with, but I would dispute part of the author's solution, because he has added an extra showing of the final indifferent card before changing it to the last selection. I would argue that the original more streamlined approach actually provides a small but invaluable element of surprise in what is otherwise a linear and anticlimactic finale.

I would also disagree that properly palming a card, once the two contact points have been met at the diagonal corners, is a function of relaxation; it is a delusion of sorts, that we talk ourselves into because we want the hand to appear relaxed, but it is not accurate. Actually, however, it requires pressure in order to compel the corner of the card, at the base of the thumb, to bend to the degree necessary to achieve the appearance of a relaxed hand. Indeed, it has long been my theory that the reason magicians notoriously "fishhook" when palming—that is, unnaturally extend the thumb (as Vernon illustrated in Topping the Deck in Select Secrets) is because the tension required to force the card to bend feels unnatural to magicians and engenders a distracting sense of guilt. Hence when we grip the card lightly, we extend the thumb; when we apply the necessary force, we curl the hand more naturally.

But these are quibbles among like-minded enthusiasts. On the plus side, for example, in his "Les Cartes Diaconis" handling, the author offers an elegant insight in comparing the structure of the routine with another influential Diaconis invention, the "Linking of Three Borrowed Finger Rings." And in general there is an overall approach to the material that reflects an attention to detail that any sleight-of-hand artist will appreciate and benefit from considering. And Mr. Pierce closes his work with this unarguable advice: "Rather than being one of the magicians who performs haphazardly or who struggles with what to say before an audience (or even, what tricks to do), take the first step of determining what you want your audience to take away; from your performance ... what you want to say to them Your performance will [then] have intent and a direction rather than randomness, and all your effects will build toward one end." There is nothing random about Mr. Pierces approach, and that is a feature none can argue with.

Elements: The Lecture. The Book • Lance Pierce • 8 1/6" x 11" spiral bound • 2001 • 84 pages • illustrated with 90 color photos