Stop-Smoking Mentalism by Pablo Taboo

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 2006)

Here's the ad copy: "A spectator is asked to participate in an experiment of no-smoking hypnosis. She pretends to smoke an imaginary cigarette, and feels as if a real one was being used: she vividly visualizes its gray smoke, smells and tastes the tobacco, feels like coughing, etc... She then brings this invisible cigarette closer to her hand, causing a noticeable warming sensation; and when she finally decides to stub it out on her hand, she feels a sharp burn!"

Sounds good, right? The instructions come in the form of a 174-page perfect bound book. Now, since the creator believes that those instructions comprise what is required in order to understand how to do this magic trick, I think I am therefore safe in mentioning that, along with various other details provided in these 174 pages, you also use the chemical trick known, among many other names, as "Hypno-Heat," in which a piece of foil or foil paper is caused to suddenly achieve high temperature in a spectator's hand. I mention this fact for several reasons, not the least of which is that the chemistry has long been known to be highly toxic, and any performer choosing to handle these materials, as well as put them in a spectator's hand, must be willing to accept the risk involved, no matter how much care may serve to minimize that risk. While it is likely true that, as the author points out, the real danger is presented by ingestion rather than from topical contact, proceed at your own risk.

Beyond the management of the chemical, the remaining instructions veer far and wide to include, among other things: an excellent presentational structure (that is, the pretense of the imaginary cigarette); useful and detailed scripts that serve as a pseudo-demonstration of hypnotism, and that may also serve to render your spectator somewhat more suggestible in your attempts to achieve the desired outcome; some good misdirection and handling that enables you to introduce the prepared bit of foil without, believe it or not, your spectator being aware of its presence; a dose of the usual content-free blather that is typical of over-priced mentalism manuscripts; a load of over-written pretentious prose and pure sales malarkey that is standard equipment in over-priced mentalism manuscripts; and 174 pages of oversized san serif type, the better to thicken up this one-trick manuscript.

There seems little doubt that, once mastered, this piece will provide a convincing "yes" in response to the question (as posed on the publisher's website), "Can you hypnotize?" The suggestion that you can in fact help someone to quit smoking is also invoked in this text, and that is a claim that some may find in questionable taste; I find the notion of couching your magic trick in the guise of therapy to be presumptuous and offensive. That said, certainly the frame of apparently hypnotizing someone into experiencing the heat of an imaginary cigarette is a dramatic idea. Readers may wish to consider that the routine as described may be mom suited to social gatherings than to professional performance.

The author concludes by offering that the piece "com bines hidden gimmicks, secret preparations, physical manipulations, low-fat double-talks, hypnotic patterns, psychological subtleties and a meaningful, audience-centered presentation ..." Whatever low-fat means in this context which is to say, nothing the rest of his description is accurate. Why it requires 160 pages (there are a few additional pages of references, index, and the like) is beyond me, and infuriatingly so. I am not opposed to detailed description indeed, I have made it a hallmark of my lecturing and writing in the world of magic but there is a vast difference between detailed content and the fact that, for example, the book's entire first chapter of "general principles" amounts to very little more than, beyond perhaps some definition of terms, an eight-page sales pitch on the item you have already purchased. Gag me with a bent spoon.

Certainly the price (and the fact that the website now claims the book is sold out!) will serve as a deterrent to the dilettante, and while the mechanics of the trick are easy to handle, the extensive scripting will be challenging for the average amateur to deliver effectively. For those who are capable of actually handling the script and the spectator management, and regularly find themselves wishing to perform in circumstances in which this piece can most effectively be utilized, the asking price may be reasonable. But the amount of puffery one must wade through to get at the actual information remains intolerable at any price.

Stop-Smoking Mentalism • Fabio Taboo • 5" x 8" perfect bound • 174 pages • illustrated with 21 photographs • Publisher: Underwords