The Art Of Close-Up Magic, Volume 1 by Lewis Ganson

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 1996)

It's hard for me to believe that I first read these books over a quarter of a century ago; it seems like only last year that my eyes were opened wide to the world of close-up magic by these famous and fascinating volumes. It is perhaps even harder for me to grasp that there is a generation or more of young magicians who have somehow tried to amass an education in conjuring without having had benefit of these important texts. Now that sad state of affairs can at last be rectified.

Lewis Ganson is well known as the man who chronicled Dai Vernon for my generation, as well as Slydini, Faucett Ross, and others of like standing. Ganson in fact wrote dozens of books, including the Routined Manipulation trilogy, and also edited The Gen from 1958 to 1970, and so had access to a tremendous range of material and contributors. In 1967 he produced these two remarkable texts; then state-of-the-art compilations of general close-up magic, without a single card trick! Several years ago, as a part of my Shattering Illusions series in this magazine, I included an essay about what I dubbed "repertoire books," to wit, titles selected for the express purpose of building a repertoire of effective close-up magic. While I actually only named six titles, Ganson's Art of Close- Up Magic would certainly have been included if I had gone as far as a Top Ten list. After all, between these two volumes there are 25 chapters containing approximately 140 items (excluding the opening entries about theory and presentation), most of which are complete tricks and routines. The range of subjects includes rings, coins, coin boxes, swindles, paddles, balls, dice, sponge balls, cups, along with standard gaffs like the Jardin Ellis Ring, Brema Nut, and Devano Rising Cards. The range of contributors includes Dai Vernon, John Ramsay, Fred Lowe, Ken Brooke, Dick Zimmerman, Edward Victor, Fred Kaps, Ken de Courcy and many, many more. Truly, I cannot imagine a basic syllabus of close-up magic without including these books.

Once again, as with the recent Vernon reprints, L&L Publishing has rendered an invaluable service to the conjuring community, not only by making these books available, but by issuing them in suitably professional formats for the very first time; my original Harry Stanley editions are, to put it bluntly, eyesores. Now these works are nicely typeset and attractively bound as they should be, for a new generation of magicians that deserves their benefit. While it is perhaps a curiosity of history to note that few of these tricks became particular classics, the totality created a work which is most certainly deserving of that status, and deserves to be read by anyone who wants to be assured of a broad eduction in the Art of Close-Up Magic.

6" X 9" hardbound with laminated dustjacket; 401 and 286 pages, respectively; illustrated with line drawings; 1996; Publisher: L&L Publishing