Why Not? by Chuck Smith
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii August, 1996)
Readers of this column will no doubt recall my repeated endorsements last year of a
terrific set of lecture notes entitled What If? [page 151] from semi-underground legend
Chuck Smith. Mr. Smith has now released a follow-up manuscript entitled Why Not?
While this latest installment might not cause quite the run on copies that word-of-
mouth produced for the first release, nevertheless there is much to merit your attention
here. As in the previous manuscript, there are no pipe dreams here; this is real work
from a real performer, the results of many years of experience in the trenches with all
the sharp edges smoothed out to a burnished sheen.
The opening item (of a total of ten), Ring Ceremony, is—well, yes, I have to say it—worth
the price of the book. This takes a fabulous but little-known effect, devised by Franklin
- Taylor in the early 1950's, using the Jardin Ellis ring, and dramatically improves the
method. Briefly, a metal harness ring magically appears on the thumb of a spectator,
under cover of a handkerchief. Yes, you read that right, and it's a prize of close-up
magic, matching effects like the sponge balls and Copper-Silver in a Spectator's Hand
for maximum impact. And as for improving the method: no gaffed ring. Think about it.
Cap and Pence is a clever and different approach to the old standby, and this and the
effect above should serve to highlight the fact that Mr. Smith doesn't kid around when it
comes to picking only the strongest material for his use. Coin Toss gives out some work
on controlling the toss of a coin that has long circulated underground but rarely far
above. Mr. Smith gives some touches and insights on an old magician's pseudo-monte
dodge, and the old no-gaff rising card bit.
The author then offers a mini-treatise on the torn-and-restored paper plot, including
five approaches in seven pages. This is not navel gazing, but rather a collection of
thoughtful insights from a man who has thoroughly considered the pertinent issues as
they apply to performing magic up close for the public. This segment is followed by a
clever sequence with a pen and a coin that leads into a discussion of sleeving, including
a terrific practice device; again, these pages sing out as words born of experience, not
dreaming. The penultimate entry is a version of Cards to Pocket that differs from the
routine described in What If? that garnered so much attention from magicians; in this
approach, an on-stage assistant is drawn from the audience, and while the trick is
certainly suitable for adults, the author points out that "If I'm doing a kid show, I always
use this version with a lot of byplay with my young assistant." The manuscript concludes
with a hole card switch that relies upon the action of pushing a chip toward the pot for
its natural motivation.
The manuscript is minimally if cleanly produced; considering the velo binding and the
handful of illustrations, the price tag may seem a bit high, but then again, when was the
last time you read a magic manuscript where every single item was completely usable?
Those familiar with Mr. Smith's previous booklet will probably already be writing the
check as they read this; if you haven't yet seen What If?, then you should probably invest
in that one first. It can also be had for $25.00, and has now been re-released in a form
far superior to its predecessor, namely a typeset, saddle-stitched booklet printed on high
quality paper. What are you waiting for?