Daniel Fierman
November 14, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Jim Steinmeyer
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it a B

Step right up! Come see a his-TORY of magic so lov-ING and com-PRE-hensive it should astound and amaze. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. This well-researched account of stage illusions circa late 19th century is chockful of colorful characters (Harry Houdini), mystifying tricks (disappearing motorcycles), and old saws (an entire chapter is devoted to — what else? — sawing a woman in half). But the author gets stuck between his audiences; his text often bogs down in too-technical detail and skimps on the most rudimentary characteristic of magic: wonder.

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