Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Yorker article on magic

Via Podblack Cat, I read Adam Gopnik's fascinating account of magic as practiced by Jamy Ian Swiss, David Blaine, and with a few remarks from Teller and a visit to David Copperfield's private museum of magic. Gopnik discusses the history and psychology of magic, and the only false note I encountered was at the end, where he writes:
The magicians have the boys for a moment, between their escape from their fathers and their pursuit of girls. After that, they become sexual, outwardly so, and learn that women (or other men) cannot be impressed by tricks of any kind: if they are watching at all, they are as interested as they are ever going to be, and tricks are of no help. You cannot woo anyone with magic; the magic that you have consciously mastered is the least interesting magic you have.
That's a statement that seems to suggest that the general public can't be fooled by slick politicians using Machiavellian methods, that there's no such thing as effective marketing techniques, and that the methods of pick-up artists don't really work. But you really can fool all of the people some of the time.

3 comments:

Podblack said...

Hmm, I read it more from the 'romance' angle - how no matter how polished, slick or professional your stagecraft is... it's going to take more to win a lady's heart (or a man's, depending on your preference). :)

Podblack said...

Oh, although you mention 'pick up artists'... I think there is a distinction between the 'artistry' of magic and the 'artifice' of lounge-louches. Perhaps there should be a study set in the smoky bars in Las Vegas and NY, rating lousy pick-up lines of magicians...

Jim Lippard said...

The techniques are different, but the sphexishness of human behavior (to use Daniel Dennett's term) allows similar kinds of manipulation in both cases. But you're no doubt correct that the relevant skills are distinct.

And there's also a difference between techniques that get someone into bed and those that support a successful and happy long-term relationship.