Torn And Restored by John Carney

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

All of a sudden, something appears to have turned up the interest level in torn and restored playing card effects. I don't pretend to know the "why" behind this sudden passion; it's not like we lack for good methods and approaches. Darwin Ortiz's latest book, Cardshark [page 173], contains a signed, torn and completely restored card. David Williamson's Torn and Restored Transposition is a terrific trick, with one of the best presentations extant; I first saw it in 1985. As it happens, the Williamson trick was an unintentional re-invention of sorts, by a completely different method, of Bob Stencil's Once Torn, Twice Restored, which didn't see print until 1985, but was being performed close to a decade earlier. In 1982 Derek Dingle weighed in with a version featuring a complete restoration, for those annoyed by those nasty missing corners. Back in 1978 J.C. Wagner released his fabulous version, inspired by Paul Harris' impromptu version which saw print just a year before, and certainly began a surge of interest in the plot in the months and years to follow. And then, of course, one might be quite pleased to perform Paul LePaul's distinctive version, circa 1959.

But even under threat of torture—say, being attacked with a giant drill or, worse still, having to watch someone being attacked by a giant drill—I would never suggest that simply because good versions exist, further versions are somehow unnecessary or uninteresting. On the contrary, widespread interest tends to spur technology and creativity along; what's past is mere prologue. Accordingly, more developments spring forth regularly; rumor has recently turned to reality that British cardician Guy Hollingworth possesses something of an ultimate approach, which appears to duplicate the fanciful version performed on television some years ago by David Copperfield. (A version suspected to have been accomplished by a method similar to, and about as practical as, a Zen koan—apparently the advertised version of which was only available to those who not only actually knew the sound of one hand clapping, but could personally duplicate it. Mr. Hollingworth's method, on the other hand, is rumored to be difficult, but probably not as difficult as that.)

At the other end of those particular spectra comes this manuscript from the fine mind of John Carney. This terrific little manuscript is a steal at the price if you're even faintly interested in the plot of the torn and restored playing card. In it, the student will find four relatively detailed handlings for the plot, followed by four additional handlings described somewhat more briefly, capped off with an additional "bonus effect," in which the magician gathers together a pile of torn pieces comprising approximately ten playing cards and restores the entirety in one fell magical swoop!

Mr. Carney has chosen his specific conditions, and briefly but clearly states them, along with his reasoning, in his prologue. None of his approaches utilize cards signed by the spectator—the author doesn't think the audience cares about this, and I am inclined to agree with him—and all of his handlings entail complete restorations—a fact that some audiences do indeed care about. Mr. Carney's approaches typify what we have come to expect from him (and if you haven't read his 1991 book, Carneycopia, then shame on you!); none of his methods are particularly difficult, all are eminently practical— designed for real-world conditions—and many are noteworthy for their extremely visual and magical nature. This is a workbook of experimental approaches, and the reader will have to do his or her part. Also, the one thing Mr. Carney does not provide here, in what he describes as a purely "technical treatise," is any presentational strategy. As he wisely notes: "It is up to the reader to devise a presentation and the reason or premise for tearing and restoring a card." Sounds like it might be an even more difficult task than coming up with eight original methods, huh? But regarding that distinctive element of visuality, consider this, Mr. Carney's opening salvo: A card is chosen and torn into four quarters. The four quarters are laid on the top of the deck, loosely assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. The mage snaps his fingers, and the pieces visually restore into a whole card, which is immediately dealt to the table. And in the second version, without the deck in play, four clearly separate pieces are instantaneously unfolded into a restored card. Cool, huh?

8 - 1/2" X 11" stapled manuscript; 11 pages; illustrated with 16 line drawings; 1995. Publisher: Catman Press