The Book-Test Test

I devised a book test for my upcoming book. It’s a very good effect, but something about it made me wonder: can I legitimately call it a book test? Trying to solve my dilemma, I went back to basics and asked myself: what defines a book test?

That’s when the trouble began in earnest.

From all the similarities I found in the many book tests I encountered over the years, I was certain that I knew the answer. A word (sentence, paragraph, picture, etc.) is selected from a book; this is to guarantee a random selection and, perhaps to a lesser extent, a great number of choices. Then the word is revealed by mind reading (impression, feeling, etc.).

There’s no question that mind reading is central to the concept of book tests. In many older versions, the selected page number wasn’t hidden from the performer. This occasionally made a spectator cry out, “You’ve got the book memorized!” So much effort has gone into devising methods to disprove memorization that the conclusion is inescapable. A book test must never be presented as a memory feat.

Which is exactly what Derren Brown did.

On the DVD Derren Brown — Inside Your Mind, Derren performs a book test. He explains it by claiming to use “the technique of photographic memory” to memorize the content of the book.

And not a word from the mentalism community.

So mind reading doesn’t matter after all. What about randomness? To justify the use of a book, we’re to claim that we don’t want to be accused of influencing the spectator’s choice or, conversely, of being able to predict, to whatever extent, what a specific spectator might choose. Yet, in certain dictionary tests, the spectator is asked to think of a word before looking it up.

And not a word from the mentalism community.

So randomness doesn’t matter, either. What about number of choices? To be fair, I have never seen this challenged; as far as I know, there is no book test that uses a ridiculously thin book. But it does raise the question: how many pages are enough? Do we draw the line at a hundred pages? Sixty-four pages? Thirty-two? What about sixteen pages, or even eight? Do four pages still qualify it as a book test?

With two of the three requirements out the window and the third one in shambles, it’s time for a new definition. Allow me to suggest the following: if it involves a book and the performer reveals it, it’s a book test.

Now do I hear a word from the mentalism community?

Please let me know what you think.


The Book-Test Test — 4 Comments

  1. I agree with your definition of a book test. Will our next generation even know what a book is?I have a young friend who has a few magic books, but mainly discovers his magic via DVDS. In my humble opinion both books and DVDS should be used as each mode of communication has its advantages. Modern mentalists need a Book test using a borrowed iPad!

  2. My presentation is very simple. I use book is test of Hoy but the revelation of the word is doing a supposed ‘fishing’. It’s impossible, but I guess that is a verb, the number of letters …
    Imitate the fishing process
    -is a noun … uh, no, no … is a pronoun, is a verb, YES, a verb … but is long, not short, begins with D, No, L, YES …

    -Yes! You are great and … handsome-

    Alberto Asecas

  3. My book test are very basic. Even as basic as memorization,old school mneumonics ice extra, even making different covers. But I’m of like mind to the first comment, what are we going to have boom tests on? Street magic has already moved I to the tech age by doing cell phone magic ect. Where goes personal creativity if your watching g the wag another magician does a trick on a DVD instead of reading and imagining how you would do a particular effect?

  4. Pingback: Mentalism in “Reading Writing” | I Saw That! Exclusive Magic