Magie Duvivier by Jon Racherbaumer
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii October, 1996)
Dominique Duvivier is a unique card and close-up performer from France, perhaps best
known for his popular Wild Card variant, Printing, a trick I first saw him perform at a
Tannen's Jubilee some fifteen years ago. Subsequently I have had the opportunity to
spend some time with Mr. Duvivier in Paris, both at the home of Gaetan Bloom, and at
his intimate magic night club, Le Double Fond. Anyone who sees Mr. Duvivier perform
will immediately note several distinctive characteristics of his work: His effects tend to
be fanciful, oddly visual, sometimes carefree in construction and method; his
performances are charismatic, playful, and audiences respond strongly to his work. I
probably retain a stronger impression of his performing manner than I do of his
methods and effects, and I would be hard pressed to judge if that is either a good or bad
thing in itself.
Communicating Mr. Duvivier's idiosyncratic performance style is no easy task in a book.
However, his eccentric approach to effect and methodology is certainly communicated
in this volume, and I believe that reactions will vary greatly. Some will eagerly absorb
and experiment with this material, while others will perhaps be put off by the direct
methods and occasional abandonment of the kind of internal and/or external logic that
many close-up magicians and especially cardicians are often fond of.
The book begins with a brief section of sleights; some are original with Mr. Duvivier,
such as his Somersaulting Double, a flourishy Double Lift reminiscent of Paul Harris'
somersaulting flourish, and another fancy lift, the Spring Set Double, based on the
similarly titled John Cornelius flourish. Standard sleights that are utilized later in the
book, like the Hamman Count and Ascanio Spread, are also described in this segment.
The first effect is a description of the aforementioned trick, Printing, for which it should
be noted that a complete set of nicely produced special cards and matching card box are
provided with each copy of the book, a unique premium making this purchase a good
value. In Mr. Racherbaumer's introductory remarks to this item, he says Mr. Duvivier is
"...not a slave to logic, and in that sense his work is related to Bro. John Hamman's. He
tries things... if they fly, they stay in." While I'm not entirely convinced of the
comparison to Brother Hamman, whose work (and lasting influence) is perhaps more
often characterized by brilliant and subtle construction rather than any lack of logic,
nevertheless the rest certainly holds true for the balance of this book. For the record,
Printing is a variation of Wild Card (I think it fair to say, given its characteristic method
and effect, despite no mention of that evolutionary line in the text), in which the plot
spins delightfully out of control in a cartoon-like way. Cards progressively change to
match other cards, then continue in multiple and overlaid images, eventually even
matching the color of a seemingly random surface such as a close-up mat or the
performer's tie, and finally a back changes to match the card case from which the packet
was originally removed. The handling is simple and direct—some might say almost too
direct— the plot imaginative and memorable.
One feature of this book that many will no doubt find frustrating is that a significant
portion of the text is devoted to extensively gaffed materials which are not always easily
prepared by the reader, and will in most cases need to be purchased. While no explicit
pitch is made in these pages, one surmises that most if not all of these items may well be
available from Mr. Duvivier, who also owns a major magic shop in Paris. More than 40
pages of this 179 page volume are devoted to such items, requiring a specially gaffed
coin box, wallets, and various types of gaffed cards. Included in this material is Mr.
Duvivier's somewhat over-extended treatment of Phil Goldstein's B'wave, entitled
Nervous Breakdown, which, while it claims to "exorcise [the original's] weaknesses"
seems to me an ingenious solution for a non-existent problem; that is, clever thinking
which fails to improve the effect and may in fact serve to gratuitously detract from the
As an example of Mr. Duvivier's occasional grin-and-hope approach to methods,
consider the following sentence, actually a footnote: "The spectator, since he is
searching for his card, will not notice that the other three Tens are missing." In this case
the spectator's card is the fourth ten, and so I ask you this: If a spectator is asked to find
his ten in a deck, and is unable to do so, will he not notice the absence of any tens—cards
that might in fact normally catch his eye, were they present, due to the similar value
and, in one case, color? What percentage of lay people qualify as sufficiently "astute," to
use the author's term, to notice that an eight card packet trick somehow ends up with
nine cards at the conclusion? Mr. Duvivier's answer to these hypothetical queries is
clear, but whether readers agree may say a lot about how they might react to much of
this book's contents.
The most interesting material here is probably to be found in a seven-trick section of ace
routines, including an extremely easy ace revelation sequence, a strange barehand
appearance of the aces, and a very odd routine entitled Progressive Jazz which consists of an almost incomprehensible array of transformations and transpositions with little
logical thread to it.
There are several non-card items, including a few coin box routines (all using gaffs of
one sort or another) and a very simple if frankly inelegant version of the Linking Pins.
There is also an elaborate Cups and Balls routine using a combination set of cups—one
cup is gaffed a la Chop Cup—which is most notable for what is certainly a novel climax
in which, in the course of the appearance of the large loads, a fourth cup also appears on
the table. Vernon often cautioned us that confusion is not magic, and readers must
judge which category this denouement falls under.
Despite my admittedly mixed reactions to some of the content, I must point out here
that this is the most attractively designed book I have seen from Kaufman & Greenberg
in some time, probably since Steel and Silver [page 66]. Obviously some effort was
expended here on the fonts, headers, page numbering and other design elements, as a
succesful attempt to reflect the rather offbeat nature of the material within its covers.
The illustrations are by Ton Onosaka, and they are up to his always exquisitely high
One other not insignificant element of this book is that it is written by the inimitable Jon
Racherbaumer. He is also, of course, the author of such noted works as Card Finesse,
the producer of the seminal journals Kabbala [page 458] and Hierophant [page 454],
and much more. Mr. Racherbaumer was once known as the world's leading Marlo
acolyte and prophet, and simultaneously as a distinctive writing stylist; what might be
described as something of an enfant terrible with a strong sesquipedalian streak. In
recent years the beast appears to have been tamed, as he now claims the role of
"avuncular friend to all," and appears to be attempting to settle many an old feud (some
more successfully than others, as in at least one notable case with one of his cohorts at
the new journal, The Looking Glass). In general, the Duvivier book seems somewhat
more carefully written than some of the other books more recently penned by the
author. This is not to say, however, that signs of hasty word processing are entirely
absent. But frankly, what I found most interesting about the author's approach to this
volume often lay in the footnotes and/or credit histories. Careful readers of this latest
work will scavenge the terrain for signs of the author's latest tastes and direction, and
receive mixed signals. For those inclined toward such explorations, the following may
provide a few road markers of interest.
A revisionist history of ATFUS is recounted that is perhaps, as the Paul Newman
character in Absence of Malice says, "accurate, but not true." The role of Alex Elmsley—a
name slighted in the past by the Racherbaumer/Marlo chronicles (see the Faro Shuffle
history in Card Finesse, for example)—has now been finally and fairly brought to light
by Stephen Minch in his Collected Works of Alex Elmsley [page 89]. While Mr.
Racherbaumer's version seems to include all the right facts, he is at such pains to safely
navigate his self-tied tightrope that readers prone toward vertigo might be well advised
to read slowly. The author ever so carefully points out that the Marlo variant (in essence
a change in fingering) of Elmsley's breakthrough concept "is more flexible because you
can execute the switch anytime." Readers will judge for themselves whether this constitutes
protesting too much, or just enough; proximity to Chicago may provide
correlation, if not causality. Elsewhere we are reminded that "Ed Marlo introduced the
notion of mixing the deck and locating the Aces" to the Triumph plot, as if this is an
invention of which Dai Vernon—not explicitly mentioned here, but implied via the
Triumph reference—could not have conceived. Mr. Racherbaumer also takes on Harry
Lorayne and his Halo Cut, perfectly willing to speculate upon all manner of hearsay
evidence—which admittedly may well be of legitimate value—but this is a habit that
seems to vanish instantly the moment such speculation might risk sullying the Marlo
name. In considering such niggling nomenclature, we can all be thankful that Edward
Marlo's substantial reputation need not rest on such picayune hair splitting as this; the
author might better serve the memory and record of his mentor if he would take a step
back and consider this indisputable fact.
I earnestly believe that much of this material may well find an audience which finds it
appealing in the extreme for its unusual, unpredictable plots and the generally
undemanding nature of the methods. Mr. Duvivier's work certainly warrants
consideration by a larger universe of cardicians, and the volume is something of a
bargain with its inclusion of a lovely and distinctive packet trick. I suggest you check it
out and decide for yourself whether Mr. Duvivier's unique tastes are suited to your