Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8)

By Jamy Ian Swiss
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Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8)

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Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8) - magic
Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8) Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8) Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8) Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8) Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8) Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8)

Magic’s Most Revered Essayist has a New Book

In The Conjurer’s Conundrum, Jamy Ian Swiss explores the magician’s relationship with skepticism. In this lively, personal book, Swiss, an activist for scientific skepticism for more than 35 years, takes readers on a magical mystery tour of the longstanding connection between magic and science: from the publication of The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot, in 1584, to the era of Spiritualism and its magician debunkers like Harry Houdini; to the modern skepticism movement, personified by the MacArthur Award-winning author, magician, and escape artist, James Randi.

Readers will delight in Swiss’s tales of testing and confronting self-proclaimed psychics on stage and on television, investigating them undercover in collaboration with criminal investigation, and challenging psychic frauds face-to-face when they try to mislead a renowned professional scientist. Magicians and civilians alike will enjoy Swiss’s revelatory accounts of the science of magic—and the magic in science. And along the way you will learn what it means to commit to living one’s life as an “honest liar.”

The most fundamental lesson in The Conjurer’s Conundrum is that seeing is not believing. For many budding conjurors, this realization often comes to embrace rational inquiry, critical thinking, and a scientific worldview. Some magicians have become social activists in support of scientific skepticism, promoting the benefits and wonders of the scientific method – while warning of the dangers of pseudoscience and of the predators who weaponize and monetize it. It may seem odd that magicians – who, after all, are professional deceivers – care passionately about trying to protect people from being deceived. But most of them do, and the result is what Jamy Ian Swiss calls The Conjuror’s Conundrum.

Softback. 158 pages.

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Customer reviews for Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8)



"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive."

Does this famous quote from Sir Walter Scott's play apply to Magicians?

Magician's by nature practice to deceive their audience; however, we do so...honestly. Magicians are Honest Liars, we practice to deceive for the purpose of entertainment, not to fraudulently deceive those for the sole purpose of stealing for personal financial gain.

Wait...did I say the same thing differently?

Hence, Conundrum.

Jamy Ian Swiss is one of my favorite magic authors and this book does not disappoint. This book is not a "how to" magic treatise. It is a historical look back at the rise of Spiritualism which still has a stronghold in our society to this day. Those who have read or studied magic will probably be familiar in some form with the charlatans of the past (and present) cheating people of their hard earned money by preying on their beliefs or grief. Jamy Ian Swiss presents those accounts in a clear and detailed fashion.

I'm going to mirror some of the previous reviewers comments about the format of this book. It is well made; however, the size it odd. It's a 158 page, 6 X 6 inch square softback book which now has the dubious honor of being the smallest book in my magic collection.

Highly recommended.



I thoroughly enjoyed Jamy's essay. As always with Jamy, it was well written and thought provoking. My only negative is that I wish all the essays were produced in a normal book size format that would fit nicely in my bookcase. It would also be nice if they were hardback. However, with that being said, I highly recommend "The Conjurer's Conundrum." It is a worthy read for any serious magician or mentalist.



Full disclosure. I am a fan of Jamy Ian Swiss and own most of his books. That is why I bought this one.
Astonishing Essays is a great read. In his usual “right to the point” style, JIS took a subject that I wasn’t sure was going to be very interesting and made it an enjoyable read. I would highly recommend it.



Physically, the book is beautiful and well-made. The size makes it a bit awkward to fit on the shelf. I look forward to filling out the set. Jamy Ian Swiss leads a very interesting life, and as an early follower of the modern skeptic movement I've read about most of these topics before. Since having a fresh perspective is always good, I liked reading his. This is mainly a historical work, both in general and autobiographical. I like that a lot, so this was right in my cool zone. I was reminded a lot of the Randi biopic, "An Honest Liar." There are a few events mentioned it would have been great to be the fly on the wall for.

As a student more of mentalism more than straight up magic, and of philosophy, I have learned to take my ethical responsibilities quite seriously and did get mildly annoyed with some of the characterizations Mr. Swiss makes. But only mildly. I think skeptics in general do pretty good work at checking out real potentially harmful claims, and am happy to be counted among their adherents. I do worry about some divisiveness in the area portrayed in this book.

Overall, buy it; I think you'll like it. As Luke Jermay points out, mining the history of the art will pay dividends. There is some good stuff to be found here. -- Craig A.

VI Monthly


Jamy Ian Swiss is a gifted writer, in fact one of the best writers in magic. I have virtually everything he has written (including obscure lecture notes from decades ago). This is a very well written book. The problem is that, on a philosophical level, I disagree with a fair amount of what Mr. Swiss has written.
Full disclosure, I am a New Testament scholar and have spent most of my life in serious study of Christianity. I have no problem reading those with whom I disagree, in fact I enjoy it and recommend it to my students. In this case, however, there were times when I felt that Mr. Swiss stepped over the line from skeptic to cynic.
It is logically impossible to be skeptical of everything because even the skeptic needs a "place to stand." That is, there are certain things which simply cannot be proven (the most obvious example would be the laws of logic which cannot be proven without first presupposing that they are true). So, one's skepticism must stop somewhere.
I understand that this is an "essay" and not a philosophical treatise, and perhaps I expected too much from this essay. It is, after all, wrong to criticize a work for not being what it never intended to be.
All of that to say that while I enjoyed the stories and appreciated the fine writing, an little more humility might have taken the edge off.
Please do not take this as a warning or a plea to not buy/read the book. You should get it, especially if you find yourself in disagreement with the modern skeptical movement. There is much to be learned here even by "narrow minded religious people" like myself (the quotation marks are my own, Mr. Swiss makes no such disparaging remarks in the book).
Like all of these essays (and indeed all books), they come with a point of view. My point of view differs but it is a reason, perhaps a very good reason to read this book.. If you come away with questions the work has done its job.



Love them, excellent, highly recommended!



I’m very impressed with this edition, highly recommended!



Worth the read.



i’m finding a theme with jamey ion swiss, every time i pick up a book from him to talk about magic, he runs off on some rant about politics.
we start the book complaining about people who are against vaccinations.
it’s just a political rant.


Community questions about Astonishing Essays - Jamy Ian Swiss (Volume 8)

Have a question about this product? It's possible others do too. Ask here and other Vanishing Inc. Magic customers will be able to respond with assistance! Alternatively, email us and we can help too.

  • Alexander asks: Is this book's binding sewn?

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: The essays are perfect bound — the high quality glue will ensure years pf use with zero loose pages.
  • David asks: Have these essays appeared in any other publication?

    • 1. Jamy Ian Swiss (creator) responds: This is a new and unified book, not a collection of essays. The opening piece has appeared previously but not in any book.
  • Jeffrey asks: Does Swiss talk about seance-deception and what Houdini did to expose those who took advantage of the heartbroken?

    • 1. Jamy Ian Swiss (creator) responds: There is definitely a Houdini chapter!
  • David asks: In the response to my question above it is said that this is not a collection of essays, but the title at the top of the product description is, “Astonishing Essays - Jamey Ian Swiss”. Can you clarify please.

    • 1. Jamy Ian Swiss (creator) responds: As explained in the video trailer, the “Astonishing Essays” is a series of small books—each book being an essay—published by Vanishing Inc, in which this book is #8.
  • Thedmo asks: My email says "free worldwide shipping," but when I attempt to order Media Mail is charged, with the prompt to spend $20 more for free shipping. It's not a huge deal, but I'm moving and have to admit that the free shipping was what made me decide to order today... but then I decided to await clarification. Thanks, Thedmo

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: The details are here:
  • Jeff asks: Is this the same publication as the Conjurer's Conundrum or is it a different publication?

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: This is The Conjurer's Conundrum.
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