Newspaper Magic by Gene Anderson and Frances Marshall
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii July, 2009)
In 1964, Gene Anderson won an award at the TAOM convention for his original act that was constructed entirely around newspaper magic even though (as he recounts in his new Foreword to this revised volume) at the time he "had no idea the torn and restored newspaper was even on my personal horizon."
Frances Marshall, hearing of the prize, contacted Mr. Anderson and proposed they collaborate on a book about newspaper magic. A plan was formulated: she would collect relevant material from journals, and he was to do book research and describe the act he had so recently debuted.
By the time the book was completed, Anderson had developed his distinctive handling of the torn-and-restored newspaper (inspired by Al Koran's idea of the "flash restoration"), and the instructions were included when the modestly titled Newspaper Magic first saw print in 1968. The book was a bargain then. This new revised edition, if it's possible, is as much or even more so.
Perhaps no kind of magic better fills the mission of "packs flat, plays big" than magic done with newspaper. Doug Henning made the "Anderson Torn-and-Restored Newspaper" famous in nightly performance on the Broadway stage in The Magic Show in 1974 or perhaps it should be said that the routine, complete with Gene Anderson's presentation, helped a bit to make Mr. Henning famous. And as Mr. Anderson tells us in his new Foreword, he has performed his newspaper act in 21 countries on six continents in the 44 years since he took that prize at the TAOM. All that on some newspaper, a bottle of rubber cement, a little wire, and a really, really big pair of scissors (so I guess he still has to check his bags).
The book, which has probably been more or less continuously in print since its release, truly does belong on any working pro's shelf or for that matter, on the shelf of every developing young magician. In either case, this is the kind of material that can help a performer take advantage of any opportunity that comes his way, and find a piece of material that is not only inexpensive to prepare, not too difficult to learn, but above all, is endlessly flexible and offers countless opportunities for customizing to the setting and circumstances of the gig. And it should be obvious that this is also infinitely useful to the role of Master of Ceremonies as Mr. Anderson has been proving for decades. The book is filled with interesting and clever ideas (a couple that particularly caught my eye include an idea for "Clippo" with a clean ending, and clever approach to the Benson Bowl routine); includes Martin Gardner's essay on the "Afghan Bands;" and offers Frances Marshall's smart suggestions for new ways to develop an act around this material (advice that is a smart now as it was 40 years ago). While some of the lines might be a little frayed around the edges, the very notion of newspapers is very much a hot topic today, and a little creativity would go a long way to making much of this material instantly useful and timely.
Furthermore, this revised edition features new photographs, which make a lot of the complex little details of newspaper folding, assembling, and handling that much easier to understand, including 20 new photos accompanying the torn-and-restored handling. (The model in these photos is Ben Whiting, demonstrator at Magic, Inc., and I do wish someone had helped the lad make better costume choices, not the least of which was the poor idea of wearing a dark shirt against a dark background for black-and-white photography. Maybe next time he'll go so far as to iron his jeans.)
With more than 60 items, along with the entire Anderson act, and the complete instructions to the "Anderson Torn-and Restored Newspaper," all selling for less than the price of the instructional DVD Mr. Anderson sells for the torn-and-restored routine alone, it seems superfluous to provide further review of the contents. But okay, I'll mention one more thing: you can also learn to balance a sheet off newspaper on your nose. Now tell me you don't need this book.