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Trade of the Tricks: Inside the Magician's Craft Paperback – September 14, 2011
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A witty, learned, engaging trip through the world of French magic, Trade of the Tricks builds intriguing ideas on the deep knowledge that comes from prolonged, intensive observation.” Howard Becker, author of Art Worlds and Outsiders
Top customer reviews
Jones tacks seamlessly between anthropological theory and the field - evenings spent in magic clubs like the "Illegal" and his own training as a magician, which proceeds from faltering routines of levitating baguettes to the being initiated into a fraternity of French magicians. (Don't miss the online material that supplements the text!) Along the way, he traces the rich history of French magic and its current status as betwixt and between "entertainment" and "art." I would have liked more discussion of belief, particularly experiences of "willful suspension of disbelief" that are at the heart of the audiences' experience of magic. Such a discussion could bring this work into fruitful conversation with the anthropology of religion and imagination. Still, this is but a small detraction from a truly enjoyable and enriching book.
I'm an anthropologist but I would not hesitate to give this book to friends outside of academia. You can't say that about terribly many ethnographies - not too many desk copies can double as birthday presents! I read this with a graduate seminar where it was well-received. I think undergraduates would also connect well with this book: Jones does a very nice job elucidating complex theoretical arguments elegantly - dare I say making them magically appear - so that they delight rather than confound. I will definitely include it in future syllabi.
Trade of the Tricks is an erudite and enchanting book, don't miss it!
Note that much of the text deals with the sociological interplay between French magicians. Regrettably, it seems that a form of Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle has come into play here: the mere fact that a sociologist was observing the interaction CHANGED the behavior he observed. It's a fault that far- too-often affects these social studies; the sociologist falls prey to the image the subjects project. And, It is particularly true of those whose lives revolve around deception - whether amateur or professional!
I have found, through many years in the field, the true situation often differs greatly from that recounted by the author, apparently new to magicdom. Particularly in France ... and I am quite familiar with most of the people who appear in this study. Like other books dealing with deceptive actors, the ego-stroking of the examiner by the subjects may be subtle, but the result is undeniably productive: false impressions by the reader.
As well, I must wonder if the author has assessed the validity of the sources he cites in his bibliography. Many are thoroughly unreliable, or fictive, not factual at all. Others are bizarre Stalinist/conspiracist-style propaganda designed for particular purposes, yet pitifullly transparent to the well-informed critical reader or historian. Others, far more important than many cited, are missing. Some non-bibliographical sources are known dissemblers, citing opinions differing from facts.
Thus, this is not a paragon of either reliability or trustworthiness. Still, worth a read, but beware: like Stebbins and others in their earlier, later, and current works, the tricksters are at play in full force, doing what comes naturally.