The Book of The Month: The Book of Secrets – Update

Lesson One: The Student Begins

I have just completed reading Lesson One and I had a strange feeling of déjà vu. For those of you who have read The Dai Vernon Book of Magic, specifically the opening chapter on The Vernon Touch and Vernon’s thoughts on Practice, there is a strange feeling of familiarity in the way John Carney has approached this opening chapter.

There are very few books written on the subject of magic, which addresses the essential need for practice, discipline, commitment and focus. The craft magic is not an easy subject to learn or master even more so in today’s world of information overload. It wasn’t easy to learn and master back in the 1970s when I first started.

 Consider, in the 1970s, the only way I could learn magic was through reading a good book on the subject. Interestingly enough, I started right at the dawning of the video age. I can remember as a child hearing the terms VHS & Betamax – terms used to describe the different formats of videocassette recordings. This new format for recording information was still in its infancy, nevertheless, the best way to get information was through the written word.

 This was a golden period for magic and magicians new the subject, simply because through reading, we had wonderful books at our disposal and was forced to learn magic through reading, comprehension, evaluation and practice.

 I can remember reading the small booklets of Roy Walton’s The Devils Play Things, this book had no drawings, or very few. So in order to bring these brilliant card tricks life, the only way forward was to read and digestive every single word.

The Book of Secrets sets out its stall in a very powerful way with the opening lesson. We as students are forced to confront our own levels of passion and commitment. I admire the fact that John Carney isn’t out to make any of us wrong for where we are on our personal continual growth. He very courageously holds up a mirror for us to see precisely where we are and to confront with integrity where we would like to be, and what we need to do to make it happen.

 John Carney is an advocate for learning through books and the judicious use of learning by video. The selection of books he gives for further study is a wonderful collection that can and will provide an endless source of inspiration and food for thought.

 The most powerful thing I’ve come away with from reading this opening lesson is the notion of always being a perpetual student, constantly asking questions and never being satisfied with the status quo. John’s mentor, the legendary Dai Vernon was someone with a voracious appetite and curiosity.
I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Vernon just once in my life and it was a glorious experience. In 1989, he was in the front row watching my performance in the Close-up Gallery at the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. He was extremely gracious and complimentary about my show and vocally said, “I love the trick with the card in the ring box”.  I spent the rest of my evening talking and listening to him. I was very keen to learn about Nate Leipzig and the king of the card sharks, Dad Stevens. Dai Vernon was extremely generous in sharing his knowledge and experience with me. I can only imagine what it must have been like having this level of conversation night after night as John Carney did and many other magicians.

With Dai Vernon – 1989 Magic Castle, Hollywood

 Now that I’ve read the opening lesson, it has allowed me to reflect and reminisce on how far I have come as a magician and how much further I can potentially go. I am committed to raising my game for 2015 and I can’t think of a better way to do that than study this great book in connection with The Dai Vernon book of Magic in the background – its back to basics.

 That completes my opening thoughts on the first lesson in John Carney’s The Book of Secrets; I look forward to hearing from you all very soon.

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