Mainly Mental by C.L. Boarde

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 1998)

First published half a century ago and long out of print, Mainly Mental is probably still the most thorough treatise on the use of billets in mentalism and pseudo-psychic work ever published. Divided into three sections, the book covers in extreme detail the work on secretly stealing billets, secretly reading them, presenting the resulting "spiel," and a large catalog of effects. The variety of approaches to the steal is notable, given the typical lack of emphasis on sleight-of-hand technique among mentalists, with extensive attention being given to eight one-handed switches, seven two-handed switches, and eight other approaches including thumb tips, envelopes, pads, and an interesting approach in which the billets are collected and apparently maintained in a clear glass tumbler that is sealed with a rubber-banded handkerchief The section on "the spiel" addresses psychological and cold reading, effectively breaking readings down into 11 practical categories and providing the reader with advice on how to approach them. The section of effects includes chapters on questions and answers, living and dead tests, one- ahead routines, dead name duplications, psychometry, telephone tests, projection, and predictions. The price here is high in light of the incredibly low production values—the book probably deserves better than spiral binding and paper covers—but you are paying for the content, and if you're interested in this subject, this material is of must-have quality.

The approach here is typically amoral or worse, "in which the performer truly believes that he is a psychic, and thus acting as such, the performer convinces his audience of the sincerity of what he intends to do." Pardon me while I puke. The performer is instructed how to make the subject feel responsible for the success or failure of the reading, so that "...the psychic has placed his client in a state of anxiety, and thus less discriminating and cautious in his reactions, as well as being more receptive to the dramatic revelations to follow. Furthermore, the psychic has provided himself with an excellent 'out' should his client prove to be too shrewd and observant a skeptic, necessitating a blank performance in preference to exposure." If you want to do this kind of slumming, the real work is here. "The information the performer has obtained concerning his client is small in comparison with what has been conceded him in deference to his 'occult' powers. To live up to this opinion the psychic must make what he has seem large. This is accomplished by feeding back the information in the smallest possible units ... The psychic is sure to capitalize on the spectator's emotional state. Flattery is used to a discriminating degree." You get the idea. Of course, few things in life are more boring than watching a guy with delusions of talent do 40 minutes of question-and-answer material; of course, there will always be a pathetic segment of the audience that will find this mesmerizing. Sleazeballs and mentalists alike will consider this book a must have. Occasionally, the two are difficult to tell apart.

8 - 1/2" X 5-1/2" comb bound; illustrated with 73 line drawings; 1947, 1948/1997; Publisher, Magico