Michael Close in Review by Michael Close
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2002)
Michael Close is the real deal. An experienced professional entertainer (as both magician and musician), a genuinely expert card handler, an original thinker, witty performer, and the author of the Workers series, Volumes 1 through 5, which had they been released as a single hardbound volume would have instantly been hailed as one of the greatest books of the last decade.
What am I forgetting?
Oh, right! He's also the product reviewer at MAGIC magazine, a post he's held since May 1995 (the first year he collaborated with Mac King, who then wussied out), only about 11 months less than I have served as a book reviewer here at Genii, for those keeping score.
Mr. Close has reviewed over 1,100 books, videotapes, and tricks in the course of his tenure, and how he has managed this may forever remain the most remarkable fear in his repertoire. (The fact that he drools a bit now and then and occasionally needs help feeding himself may be an unfortunate side effect, which one hopes will fade at such time he decides to step down.) He has now amassed all of this material and I do mean all of it, almost 900 pages worth on a CD-ROM. The entire document opens readily in Adobe Acrobat Reader, a standard, easy-to-use program with a tremendously effective "search" ability, and works equally well on PC or Mac platforms. This is an enormously valuable resource, and compared with the price of most magic content today or what passes for content, in the form of videotapes and books the price represents a value almost beyond imagination, if not computation which I suppose actually comes to something like 1.8 cents per entry (proving that this really is a collection of Mr. Closes two cents worth).
Mr. Close offers a brief introduction to the collection, in which he plainly states his own approach to reviewing. "My driving goal was to provide honest information for the magician who had no easy access to a magic shop, and thus had to make his buying decision based on the ads that appear in the various trade journals." Declaiming any pretense to "formal criticism," he makes it clear that his intention was to provide bottom-line, real-world advice about value that would offer practical benefit for the reader along with trying to "make the column entertaining to read." To the latter point, he has made me laugh out loud many a time, and his column is always the first thing I turn to in MAGIC (unless, of course, he is writing about some particular item I have yet to address myself, which I dutifully skip over until such time.)
I am always amazed when I see someone on-line asking advice about books or tricks or videotapes, without even consulting the reviewers who spend a good deal of their time thinking about these subjects, thus amassing a range of experience that gives them a strong basis for comparison. While in the United States it is a legal doctrine that everyone has a right to their opinion (whether or not John Ashcroft is clear on this), the writer Robert Heinlein once wrote that in his world, "every-one has a right to an informed opinion." In my world, I consider Michael Close's opinion an invaluable one, and you will more than pay for the cost of obtaining it the very first time you take a few seconds to search this database and find yourself saved from buying some long-on-promotion-short-on-ideas piece of trash over the internet, or you are guided toward a wiser investment of your hard-earned. Those who do not know their history are destined to buy a lot of dreck.
Note: The Department of Shameless Plugs has asked me to bring to your attention the fact that a collection of my own reviews, 1994 through 2000, is soon to be published by Lybrary.com; keep tuned to www.jamyianswiss.com for further developments.