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by David Parr
Hermetic Press, 1998
Brain Food is an excellent book that describes how one performer transformed his magic into an artform. Using a format similar to the one used in The Books of Wonder, David Parr presents short but highly insightful essays on various topics, each followed by one or several performance pieces — they’re much more than mere “tricks” — that illustrate the topic discussed.
Following an essay on magic as art and another on creativity, David explains how analyzing the effect, method and presentation helps him improve performance pieces. The essay on presentation, for instance, leads to a disappearing cigarette routine presented as a demonstration of resistance to pain, with the disappearance coming as a complete surprise. An examination of methods leads to an improved slow-motion bill transposition that’s cleaner and more logical than the original.
In other essays, David explains why everyday-looking props are better than magic props, how to create suspension of disbelief by appearing to be totally above-board, and why magicians should use suspense in addition to surprise. In all, there are fourteen essays and eight fully-scripted routines, including David’s delightful and highly acclaimed “Dinner with the Borgias”, a theatrical piece full of drama, tension, and humour.
Brain Food is a wonderful — and very useful — book because, rather than simply stating rules, David explains why and how his own thinking and experiences have led him to reconsider many of our beliefs about magic. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all magicians who are convinced — or want to be convinced — that magic is, indeed, an artform.