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Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic Paperback – October 14, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

He was buried alive for a week in Times Square, encased in ice for three days, also in Times Square, and stood atop an 83-foot pillar in Manhattan's Bryant Park for 36 hours-and received national TV coverage for all these feats. Often touted as the new Houdini, Blaine is a consummate magician as well as endurance artist and an important force in the field for his advocacy of "street magic." In this spirited book, his first, Blaine offers readers a magical extravaganza on paper, a mix of autobiography, history of magic, how-to (do magic), interactive magic tricks and self-help advice. Blaine begins with intimations of stage magic's power, with an account of legendary 19th-century magician Robert-Houdin traveling to Algeria on orders of the French government to quell an uprising by showing that his magic was greater than that of the rebels. He ends with a knuckle-whitening account of his pillar stunt, a "dream manifesto" ("Read. Observe.... Our minds have no limits") and suggested resources including books of general interest (at the top: The Brothers Karamazov). This is a very personal volume, with Blaine's passionate, playful, opinionated, determined personality evident on nearly every page. Magic buffs will find much here that's familiar, like the recaps of magicians past and present, but even serious hobbyists will pick up tips from the tricks and explanations scattered throughout, and the final chapters, devoted to Blaine's endurance challenges, are pure gold. Copious illustrations enliven the already brisk text. Though doubling as major promo for Blaine, this is one of the most thorough and enjoyable introductions to magic in years. Two-color throughout; four-color photo inserts.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Michael Jordan of magic. The hip-hop Houdini. These are some of Blaine's promotional tags. Even if you didn't join the 15.88 million viewers who watched this escape artist's "Frozen in Time" special, you might like to know that Robert DeNiro has optioned his life story.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812969774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812969771
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By William Henry on November 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
David Blaine's aptly titled book, Mysterious Stranger, reveals few, if any of the young magician's most guarded secrets. People expecting to read it and come away knowing how to a) Levitate or b) Be buried alive for a week, will be disappointed. Those who are simply curious about the rising star's life, his philosophy of magic, and who would like to learn a few tricks along the way, will get all they paid for, and more.
I realize that I've said pretty much nothing about the book, but that's only because it's surprisingly hard to classify. It reads like a continuous blend of history, biography, magic tricks, and personal memoirs. Oh, yeah. There's also a hidden puzzle named "Blaine's Challenge" contained in the text that, when correctly solved, reveals the secret location of $100,000 stashed safely away somewhere in the United States. This is a legitimate contest - not a scam or publicity stunt, which, if nothing else, leaves the reader with something to ponder and dream about.
All of this though, would be unimportant if this weren't a good book, which it is. The first thing I noticed was the great overall look of the book. The hardcover edition weighs in at 214 pages, and is packed full of great, full-page photographs, pictures, and illustrations throughout.
The first couple of chapters deal mainly with the history of magicians and magic, and are fairly comprehensive. But this isn't a history book, and Blaine knows it. He keeps the chapters short, sweet, and even slips in some fun tricks that have nothing to with history to amuse and entertain your friends.
The core of the book is not about magic in general, but about Blaine himself. As a reader, I learned a lot about him and about magicians in general.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By mwreview on February 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
David Blaine's Mysterious Stranger is a very interesting and creative book. I was drawn to the mystifying cover and after thumbing through the book and seeing all the intriguing photographs and clever style and format, I knew I had to check this book out even though I was not aware of Blaine's work save for headlines for his sensational stunts.
Blaine is a true expert in his craft. He is an historian of magic and this book includes stories about many of the important figures in the art of illusions and escapology: Dedi who performed for Cheops in Ancient Egypt, the stone eaters, Robert-Houdin, Max Malini, Alexander Herrmann, Titanic Thompson--a con-man who even outwitted Al Capone, the fascinating Stylites who lived atop high pillars to escape the evilness of earthly life, and, of course, Harry Houdini. Blaine puts his heart and soul into his magic. He includes stories of his childhood, how he became interested in magic (seeing a photo of Houdini who was clinging to a railing with his chin), and his devotion to his late mother. Accompany this history are guides to basic card tricks and illusions, so be sure you have a deck handy when reading this book.
He also, of course, describes experiences that made him famous: filming his television show Street Magic, attending a voodoo ceremony in Haiti, braving the Venezuelan rainforest to meet the Yanomano Indians, and his daredevil stunts of being buried alive, standing in ice, and standing on a pillar. He describes his grueling regime of preparation which included learning to sleep while standing up while preparing for his ice demonstration. Blaine shows a deep appreciation for the tradition behind his stunts and illusions.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is by the famous, darkly handsome street magician who gained fame recently through three major stunts: entombing himself in the sidewalk, being encased in a block of ice, and standing on (then leaping from) an 80-foot pillar in Bryant Park. Blaine's book is part memoir, part how-to guide, and part history of magic. The three elements blend well, although the directions on how to perform various tricks occasionally seem somewhat shoe-horned in with the autobiographical narrative. However, this creates an unusual structure that makes the book quite engaging, even if you don't have an interest in actually performing the tricks. If you've seen Blaine on any of his television specials, you may have been captivated by the simple beauty of his tricks and his laid-back style. This style comes across in his writing, which is very natural and vivid. His writing is less dynamic during his long histories of magic and magicians, specifically in a chapter dedicated to Houdini. I can't be sure, but some of these passages read as though they were ghost-written, or at least heavily edited. That's not a complaint, because the rest of the book is sufficiently personal to compensate for it.
Perhaps the books most interesting chapters are the last three, which details the three major televised stunts he has performed. He discusses the preparation and execution of each of the stunts, as well as his state of mind during each of them, which in most cases can most succinctly be described as "out of it". These passages are particularly interesting if you've actually seen his stunts either in person or on TV.
Blaine also frequently discusses his relationship with his (now deceased) mother, who he obviously loved very much, and seems to have served as a motivation for his success.
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