I’ve been reading The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman. It’s a fascinating read.
I used to practice some magic when I was a child. I never had a knack for patter, which meant no matter how good my technical skills where, I would have a hard time impressing someone that something interesting happened.
I mean, I’ve seen someone do the old detachable thumb trick and even though everyone older than 5 years old knows what’s going on, it was impressive. You couldn’t help believing because of the patter and presentation.
Even though I play with slight of hands off and on, I have pretty much given up on that. However, I haven’t given up on Magic or magicians. Penn & Teller are still awesome and the The Amazing Randi continues to entertain.
Houdini has always been fascinating, in part because everything he did seemed both possible and yet impossible. Even after I learned how some of his tricks were done, the fact he could actually do that was impressive. In some ways, I’m not sure what’s more impressive; that he could make you believe that he could walk through handcuffs, walls, jail cells, etc. or that he did all that work to make it look like he would walk through handcuffs, walls, jail cells, etc.
Either way, Houdini was amazing.
Until I read this book.
Now I think he’s awe-inspiring. The book has gobs of new research pointing out all kinds of new things. It details more about Houdini and his life than I have ever seen. Certainly more than was ever in one place before.
Not to spoil the book but it turns out Harry Houdini was a secret agent!
If you like biographies, read it. If you like magic (or just Harry Houdini), read it.