This is a review of Here is Real Magic: A Magicians Search for Wonder in the Modern World by Nate Staniforth. You can read my other 2018 book reviews here.
There is a gap in time, between the final flourish of an illusion or trick and the point at which my mind kicks in where I still have a flash of childlike awe. Immediately after that I automatically try and decipher what I have seen, looking for a trap door or camera angle that would give the secret away.
In ‘Here is Real Magic’, Nate Staniforth dwells on this moment, describing and enjoying it in all its glory – despite being the guy who knows the answer to ‘how did they do that?’ He walks us through his journey, from the usual stopping point of the toy magic set at home, through to seeing David Copperfield in his hometown, and onwards to earning a living on the circuit.
Somewhere along the way, the author loses his wonder and begins a search that will take him to India to meet snake-charmers and illusionists from slums that are more than a round-trip airfare from his home in Iowa.
We encounter cobras, and mystics – along with mystical moments and ancient Indian twists on modern illusions. Staniforth describes his journey across India in meticulous detail, which left me to wonder about the contrasts in a vast country.
I loved Here is Real Magic, a short read of about 300 pages in a simple conversational style that left me with no question about how the search for wonder went, and where we should seek to find it:
I think you have to grow up twice. The first time happens automatically. Everyone passes from childhood to adulthood, and this transition is marked as much by the moment when the weight of the world overshadows the wonder of the world as it is by the passage of years. Usually, you don’t get to choose when it happens. But if this triumph of weight over wonder marks the first passage into adulthood, the second is a rediscovery of that wonder despite sickness, evil, fear, sadness, suffering – despite everything. And this second passage doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s a choice, no an inevitability. It’s something you have to deliberately go out to find, and value, and protect. And you can’t just do it once and keep it forever. You have to keep looking.
I raced through this book, enjoying every minute. There is as much sage advice and wisdom in this book and magic, as there is in any management self-help book. I highly recommend Here is Real Magic.