The Protocols of the Elders of Magic by Max Maven
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 2006)
At the time of writing this review, The Protocols of the Elders of Magic has sold out entirely, even though none of the purchasers has as yet seen their copy, nor do they even know anything about the contents. This intriguing fact serves not only as mute testimony to the reputation of author Max Maven, but also renders any further review pointless.
Okay, so I was tempted to just quit there, but I'll add a tad more. These Protocols are contained in a beautifully designed and produced limited edition volume. These Protocols consist of a small, dark, private joke about the world of magic, that will remain a more or less private joke between 500 of the author's best friends (and what, after all, is friendship if it can't be bought?). These Protocols take their title from some other Protocols that are anything but a joke, namely the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notoriously anti-Semitic forgery produced by the Russian secret police at the turn of the 19th century, used by the Third Reich in their pursuit of the Holocaust, and still promoted as fact by anti-Semitic hate groups today.
That is no joke, and Mr. Maven makes this point clearly for those paying attention but not explicitly, which is in itself part of the joke as well. The title echoes the point of the book that a lie, no matter how long told or how frequently, is still a lie. The book is about the imminent death of magic in wittily "exhumed" epigrams spanning the years 1894 to 1992, not coincidentally the term of Dai Vernon's life. It required 10 years for Mr. Maven to collect these quotes and the result is a delight-fully dismal tale, capped by a droll and deadly punch-line. If you understand the joy of dark humor the life affirming nature, for example, of the popular children's literature about the character Lemony Snicket and her "series of unfortunate events" then you are doubtless already laughing over your copy. If you don't get it, then, well get over it.