Thoughts So Far by Kennedy

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii March, 2007)

During a panel discussion at last year's Mindvention, Michael Weber was asked how one goes about inventing new effects and routines. He responded by saying that he thought it was a useful rule of thumb to read 100 books about a subject before you wrote one.

I would like to be kind to the young author of this book, who I think is talented and well-intentioned, but who I do not think has read his 100 books. There are some good ideas in the way of presentation in these pages, but unfortunately much of the best trick ideas are reinventions and recyclings. That they may be new to the book's 21-year-old author is perhaps no surprise.

Some of the content has merit. In the very first entry, "Subliminal Summer," the performer tells a story about a family that saves money for a vacation. The mentalist presents six postcards, each depicting a different international location, and a hotel key. The spectator places the key on any of the postcards. When all the postcards are turned over, the other sides are seen to be blank except for the chosen one, on which a message has been written from the family, saying that they having a great time. This is simple and direct mentalism and, while the fundamentals are not new, and the basic elements are credited to others, nevertheless the author has added some plot and methodological touches that are valid and appealing.

On the other hand, the second entry, "Ultimate Connection," produces a coincidence effect using an ordinary deck of cards and an Ultra-Mental Deck. While I appreciate that the author has contributed a detailed script, I'm sorry, this ancient idea is simply not enough to justify six pages.

In the third entry, "Mirage," one spectator selects a card and the other reveals it. The method relies on a Mirage Deck, that is, a rough-and-smooth Svengali Deck (better known to many of us as the venerable Pop-Eyed Popper); the deck is used to force the card twice, once via a spectator stop, the second time via the classic all-as-one Svengali display. The deck is handed to the first spectator to confirm it is ordinary—risky at best—and the second spectator is essentially an instant stooge. I apologize to the author for revealing this, but I feel compelled to do so in order to point out that this entire trick could easily be accomplished with a borrowed ordinary pack of cards and much less, well, fooling around. Sometimes a little judiciously applied skill can save a lot of trouble and risk.

And so on. There are some useful ideas sprinkled throughout, but for the life of me, their sum total is not worth anywhere near the asking price of this book. This is because we have a young and enthusiastic author who is full of ideas but doesn't yet know enough to be able to tell what's good and what% not, what's new and what's not. And I don't believe it's our job to pay him handsomely for his lack of knowledge. I think Mr. Kennedy has potential, but he's not even close to realizing it. My advice to him: Come back later. Do your work. Stop wasting time selling third-rate output. Make yourself into something. Come back later and show me what you have accomplished. Much later.

Here are some of Mr. Kennedy's bad ideas: A version of the chair suspension in which the chairs are painted different colors does he really travel with four chairs? A routine with a card in a leather case or wallet which is referred to in the script with the phrase, "The cards are kept in leather as black as the night." A drawing duplication combined for no logical reason with a card trick, so that an accomplice can code any "common drawing" to the performer I think this counts as three bad ideas (and oh, yes, you also need a nail writer). An utterly standard routine combining the classic "Premonition" effect, accomplished with two prepared decks (you have to hear the card announced before producing the right deck), and a Brainwave Deck to reveal the missing card. (By the way, revealing that card in another pack does not improve on "Premonition.")

Here are a few cogent details I honestly think readers need to know before deciding to spend $70 on Thoughts So Far:

  • Of the book's 239 pages, 37 of them are blank except for the title of the trick which follows. The reverse side of each of these title pages is completely blank. That means 74 pages of titles—one-third of the book. This is called: "padding."
  • About one-fourth of the items in this book are card tricks. I don't mean subtle miracles of mentalism that happen to use playing cards. I mean, card tricks. Good card tricks, yes—but card tricks. Basic mental magic. Poker hands. Two decks with matching selections, and one of the decks is gaffed. Stuff like that.
  • Mind, Myth & Magic by T.A. Waters remains available at $60.
  • Theater of the Mind by Barrie Richardson remains available at $42.
  • Act Two by Barrie Richardson remains available for $47.
  • Paramiracles by Ted Lesley remains available for $35.
  • (I realize I've mentioned those last few before, but I'm going to keep doing it until somebody pays attention.)

In sum: Those who do not know their history are doomed to keep paying for it. And overpaying.

Thoughts So Far • Kennedy • 7" x 9" perfect bound • 239 pages • Published by the author