It's Not Fun To Be Fooled by Bill Nagler, M.D
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 1998)
More than a dozen years ago, Scotty York drew my attention to this manuscript, along
with a series of columns that the author wrote for the Magic Circular magazine while he
was a medical student in the mid-1970s. There is some good advice here about some of
the challenges of making close-up magic palatable for real-world audiences, and the
opinions expressed, albeit well known to the majority of working pros, go against much
of the conventional wisdom of magic, especially of the era in which it was first produced.
Also, those skeptical of the mainstream point of view—for example, of the ludicrous
claim that it is fun to be fooled, along with all its associated and yet wrong-headed
assumptions—were far less vocal 20 years ago than today. Nevertheless, such rational
voices were to be found; for example, much of Dr. Nagler's thoughts are echoed, and in
far more articulate manner, in the book, Theatrical Magic by Dr. Eugene Gloye, in his
superb chapter on the psychology of magic presentation.
Given the incredibly low-tech production quality, the padding (there is a page here
containing all of 34 words), plus the careful preservation of all the original typos and
spelling errors, I must say that while I do recommend the contents of this manuscript,
it's hard to justify the price. Then again, the good doctor has six other manuscripts
available, each one even more overpriced and just as poorly produced as this one.
Although his reprinted columns from the Magic Circular provide a mildly interesting
record of what was going on in the over-the-counter magic scene at the time, the less
said about the brand of humor reflected in some of his other manuscripts, the better. Dr.
Nagler is a psychiatrist, and you need one if you try to use some of these lines in
contemporary society. You'll also need a taste transplant if you find many of them funny,
although for all I know they might play well in the author's native Livonia. And in some
cases, you might require an emergency surgeon as well.