Shattering Illusions

By Jamy Ian Swiss
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Shattering Illusions

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Book or download by Jamy Ian Swiss (Book $35.00 or download for $26.25)

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Shattering Illusions - magic
Shattering Illusions Shattering Illusions Shattering Illusions Shattering Illusions

With 2001’s Shattering Illusions, Jamy Ian Swiss cemented his role as magic’s preeminent essayist. Perhaps no book ever written on the subject of magic has been so controversial and debated as Shattering Illusions, and it remains relevant and topical today. This book is a neo-classic and worthy of careful study.

Long out of print and on virtually every “must-read” magic list since its first printing, Shattering Illusions is finally available again, in a brand new edition that features a new cover design and layout. With the advent of the newly released Preserving Mystery, Vanishing Inc. is proud to offer “the complete works” Swiss trilogy.

Shattering Illusions contains twenty essays that will reshape the way you think about magic. Jamy Ian Swiss examines why we do magic at all, what it means to be “commercial” in magic, what makes for good and bad magic, why critics and the public hold magic in such low regard, and much more.

Praise for Shattering Illusions:

"Jamy Ian Swiss is an esteemed colleague, a terrific performer, and someone who cares very deeply about the art of magic…. For Mr. Swiss, complacency is not an option…. Shattering Illusions contains no tricks, but it contains many of the real secrets of successful magic…. Shattering Illusions is an important book. Buy it. Study it. Think about it. You'll be a better magician for having done so." Michael Close, MAGIC, November 2002

"Splendidly written … At their best, these essays remind us of the wonderful, the fleeting, the transcendent feelings we've had while experiencing the performance of a magic effect, and give us reason to pause and reconsider our own objectives…. This is an entertaining, illuminating and provocative collection by a man who possesses a profound affection for magic. Every generation seems to produce a few voices that shout from the wilderness, waking us from our complacency, pointing out alternative paths and cajoling us to do better. Jamy Ian Swiss will certainly be remembered as one of those voices." David Regal, Genii, December 2002

"I honestly don't know of a single person in magic and/or mentalism that would not be healthier after a good dose of this book…. In one of my favorite chapters ('Mentalism Grows Up'), Mr. Swiss writes about mentalism. But how can this be? After all, I have heard for years that Jamy Ian Swiss despises mentalism. Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that is simply not the case. (Although he has told me that hates bad mentalism, and who can argue with that?) The views that he expresses are very well thought out, and they could help raise mentalism to the level of true artistry, but only if it divorces itself from the backroom charlatans…. In my opinion, all of Shattering Illusions is in the "must-read" category, but I believe that the final two chapters are truly definitive…. People often discuss what books they would want with them if they were stranded on a deserted island. In the case of Shattering Illusions, I will pack two copies in case one gets damaged." Rick Maue, Voices (Deceptions Unlimited), December 2002

"This is an important book, one that should be read and reread by everyone thinking him or herself a magician." Phil Willmarth, Linking Ring, December 2002

"Swiss is currently best known in the magic community for his 'no holds barred' book reviews in Genii. Although there are many who disagree with this or that comment he might make, few would challenge his abilities as a wordsmith. His writing ability, combined with his great passion, commitment and integrity, make for compelling reading. … Although no tricks are taught, these essays are not entirely theoretical. For example, his 'Good Trick, Bad Trick' is a useful system for analyzing performance material for its commercial potential. There is a history of bar magic, tributes to Goshman, Vernon and Slydini, autobiographical pieces and a constant grappling with ethical issues, ranging from intellectual property to exposure to the performance of mentalism. It is impossible to read this book without thinking, which is a very good thing indeed." HR Magic Books, December 2002

"This is a book about 'magic!' No, not tricks. This book is REALLY ABOUT MAGIC! What it is, what it could be, used to be, should be, will be, may never be, etc…. I can guarantee that you can turn to almost any paragraph on any page of this book and there is something there that will make you think about your magic, or just magic in general. It will create a spark in your mind that just might be the key to a better approach to your magic. This book is REAL…. I really think that Jamy has gone far beyond expectations with these writings. I will go so far as to put this on my bookshelf with Fitzkee, Maskelyne & Devant, Nelms, Sharpe, Wonder and other 'important' works. If magic is truly in your 'soul' then this book MUST be read, not once, but many times." Denny Haney, Denny & Lee Magic Studio

"A must have. End of story. Will benefit the professional and amateur alike. This stuff like fine wine is to be sipped and appreciated. It's not for everyone, but then again neither is magic. One of the very few books by someone qualified to write a book, not some new jack on the block. Jamy Ian Swiss knows what he is talking about." David Malek, Earth's Largest Magic Shop

"Be prepared to have your thinking on magic challenged by one of magic's finest wordsmiths and deepest thinkers. Jamy Ian Swiss is a performer, writer, lecturer and TV magician who knows a bit about magic. His reviews in Genii have truly lifted the bar when it comes to product review and his 'speak your mind with thought and justification' style has ensured readers open those pages first each month. The first essay in this book 'Why Magic Sucks' may get your back up but calm down and re-read and you will see where he is coming from. Taylor's Magic Shop, Australia

Contents of Shattering Illusions

  • Foreword by Patrick Watson
  • Cannon Fodder
  • Why Magic Sucks
  • Mentalism Grows Up
  • Odometer Ethics
  • Decent Exposure
  • Magic in the Age of Information
  • Yesterdays
  • Real Secrets
  • A Brief History of Magic Bar
  • The Writing on the Wall
  • A Magician Prepares
  • Audience Members and Other Props
  • Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue
  • Sleights, Lies, and Videotape
  • First Do No Harm
  • Good Trick, Bad Trick
  • The Too-Perfect Theory in Action
  • In Defense of Technique
  • Unnatural Acts: Invoking the Supra-natural
  • A Commercial Message
  • Lessons and Learning
  • The Elements of Style
  • The Search for Mystery

Jamy Ian Swiss books

222 pages, hardbound with gold foil engraving.

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Customer reviews for Shattering Illusions



What a great book full of provocative essays that makes you rethink about many magic topics. Swiss challenges conventional wisdom and invites readers to rethink their approach to magic performance. Through a series of insightful essays, Swiss dissects the art of magic with surgical precision, addressing topics such as ethics, creativity, and the psychology of deception. With a refreshing blend of wit and wisdom, Shattering Illusions is a must-read for any magician seeking to elevate their craft and understand the deeper implications of their art. Highly recommanded.



The Shattering illusions, which offers a selection of 20 different essays on magic, is an amazing book. The range of topics include dissection of bad performances, unethical behaviors, infusion of meaning, deception and good practices that force the reader to re-examine not only the repertoire, but the choices within each performance. In addition, Swiss covers key lessons from other magicians and goes through memorable performances as significant case studies to illustrate his points. There is a treasure trove of information in each chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially at the few occasions when I disagreed with the author. I whole-heartedly think this book deserves to be re-read on a regular basis and should be part of a magic library. Despite the progress of technology over 20+ years (since the first edition came out), this book aged like fine wine.



For those who desire to have audience who are not just passingly amused at their performances, but rather memorably moved by their efforts, this book should be read, re-read and then painstakingly put into practice.



Of the 2 books, I am referring to Preserving Mystery this one (Shattering Illusions) pains me to read. Most of it is just down right obnoxious. There are a few moments where it redeems itself not being a load of rhetoric where I felt it was worthy of the 35 bucks. But honestly just mostly ranting. Can't say I can recommend it. Look I am not throwing it in the bin, there are some hidden gems in there.


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