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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Books, Pamphlets & Lecture Notes » » Finally!! A detailed review of Juan Tamariz's The Magic Rainbow (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Hey, everyone. After The Magic Rainbow was released, I checked the internet periodically for a review (I was planning to get it anyway, but was very curious to hear what it's about and what people thought of it). Surprisingly, I couldn't find any detailed (even somewhat detailed) review of it.

Well, I just received it as a gift about a week and half ago (for consulting I did for a friend's Magic Castle Act and Lecture) and I have read through it from cover to cover. Obviously this was just my first read-through; I plan to go back through it many times slowly and put more time and thought into many of the topics. But I figured I'd try to share some information and some of my opinions about the book. Again, it should be totally understood that I am writing this after having read through it ONCE. I'm sure we have all read/seen something once, and only after seeing it numerous times did it begin to resonate with us. Therefore, this shouldn't be taken as a strict judgment of the book, rather just trying my best to tell you what it's about, what I got from it and what I anticipate getting from it through future readings.

I really enjoyed writing this review, because sometimes you can read something and if you're not taking notes while you read it (which I normally do, but I specifically wanted to read this one cover to cover first without taking any notes, just to get an overview) you tend to forget things. So even though you enjoyed a specific part when you read it, by the time you finish the whole book you may forget about that part. It was nice to go back and see all the things that are in the book that I enjoyed (or didn't enjoy), and this review is like a personal outline of the book for me.

I won't talk about EVERY single article in here (there's a lot...), but I will try to be quite thorough and mention at least one line about the major topics. And also understand that just because I have more to say about one thing than the other does not mean it is better or that it took up more space in the book; it just means I enjoyed it more or had more to say about it. Also some sections are more like essays in that they are well-written philosophical pieces, so there isn't much for me to write about it here, other than "it's an essay on X." So I'll either write just that, or I won't even comment on it.

A final disclaimer is that, as I said, this review is not based on notes that I took while I read, so while I did keep the book handy to refer back to, I did not re-read it to write this review, so it's entirely possible that I misrepresented parts of the book or forgot to comment on a major part. Again, I tried, and I don't think I did too bad of a job.

Well, here we go:

CHAPTER 1 (about 40 pages)

He offers his attempt at defining "magic" (by "attempt," I don't mean to imply that he does a bad job - quite the contrary - I just mean this is him having a go at the age-old "what is magic?" discussion), defining "art," explaining magic as an art, and how it relates to the stage (theater), television and close-up. I found this chapter very interesting and a nice way to kick-off the book.

CHAPTER 2 (about 10 pages)

He goes through the numerous steps that exist between the conception of a trick by its creator and the interpretation and eventual performance of that trick by a performer. To be clear, this chapter doesn't go into detail about the much sought-after "creative process"; to me his goal seemed to be to just give some clarity to this chain of events, thus giving you a perspective and putting you on the right path to interpretation/creation. I found these pages interesting.

CHAPTER 3 (about 50 pages)

He spends a few pages discussing the "classics" of magic and analyzes what they all have in common and in what merits they remain "classics." I will have to re-read this section many more times, but I didn't necessarily agree with his conclusions or some of his premises. However, still a good read and good stuff to think about, which is what this book is all about.

Then he spends about 10 pages introducing "symbolism" in magic; how different objects and plots have some deeper underlying theme and meaning to them that can allow the audience to connect with them emotionally on deeper and subtler levels. He gives examples of tricks to illustrate. While I definitely found it an interesting read and noteworthy, I personally didn't really buy into some of the symbolism he wrote about.

Spends about 7 pages analyzing many different aspects of a multiplying balls routine. In my quick glance back at this section, I don't recall exactly how this tied into the symbolism in magic, but I found this section very useful and a good template for breaking down and analyzing any routine you do.

A few pages talk about his famous Koornwinder Kar card trick and talks about what makes it such a great trick, based on things he discussed earlier regarding "classics" and symbolism.

Spends a few pages elaborating on the importance of the "effect" and what contributes to a "fascinating miracle."

Spends a few pages discussing having variety in an act. I enjoyed these pages. It's something I've given lots of thought to myself and I've recently published my thoughts, and I was happy to see his thoughts parroted much of what I had written.

CHAPTER 4 (about 55 pages)

This chapter was really great. Obviously the few lines I write won't begin to do it justice, but I can't give everything away...

He spends time talking about the psychology of memory, the different types of memory, and how it works, and refers to some non-magic books on the subject.

He teaches a cool card trick where the method is very much based on the psychology of getting your audience to misremember how the trick played out, using brilliant subtleties in your script. He refers to his famous "Deaf Man's Technique" in this, which is another great ploy that Mr. Tamariz is known for.

[Let me just interrupt by saying: I saw some people talk about this section of the book and describe it as "learning how to make your audience forget things," which almost sounds like some psychological trick that fits more into the mentalism genre. To be very clear, that's NOT what this is about. Here, the memory tricks are all part of the "METHOD" and inner-workings of the trick, they are NOT the plot of making the audience forget things. Okay, back to the book...]

He continues to discuss memory and how to use words, actions, sounds and other tactics and ways to manage and structure the tricks to help the audience remember the important points that you want them to remember and, like the example I referred to before, to get them to NOT remember what you want them to forget.

He continues with the discussion of memory and delves into what he calls the "Comet Effect" which I won't detail here, but it's all about how a magical experience grows over time in the spectator's mind, from during the effect, to the climax, to the time long after the trick is over.

He gives more factors that help your audience remember things or misremember things when necessary, and he constantly provides examples to clarify his points.

I'm kind of copping out here, because there is so much more to say (what I have written already is the whole chapter in just the tiniest nutshell), but this is really an amazing chapter, well worth reading over and over and incorporating into your work.

CHAPTER 5 (This chapter runs over 150 pages, but it discusses a number of different things, so I'll try to touch on each of them)

He begins by talking about the emotions that the audience feels when they watch magic, and how important it is to be in tune with what the audience is feeling during the trick (and especially at the end).

He then goes on for over 20 pages and outlines all types of tricks from all different genres and points out the detailed emotions that audiences feel when witnessing them. This section was clearly quite a project on his part. Personally, while I don't think it was a waste of time, when I have a 500+ page book by a master, I wasn't thrilled to have 20+ pages spent doing this. I think a few pages could've given me the idea and then I can choose to analyze other tricks I want for my own use. Again, don't get me wrong: I don't think it was a waste of time, and it is a great thing to REFER to, but I thought it was a bit much to have ALL of it (20+ pages!) in this book.

He then spends about 12 pages analyzing Dai Vernon's Ambitious Card from Stars of Magic, pointing out the audience's emotions each step of the way and explaining how brilliantly each phase was structured to lead the audience (and their emotions) by the hand every step of the way to produce a great effect. Besides the emotional elements, he points out bits of psychology as he goes along that make each phase work. This part was very good.

The next section is about 15 pages and deals with the "conflict" in a magic effect; this mostly is in regards to the conflict which is the moment of magic. These discussions get tied back into how he defined magic as an art. He also tackles the logical side of magic (or lack thereof) and how spectators cope with it. He ties symbolism (written about earlier) into the discussion. These pages were very philosophical and I didn't seem to find a lot of direct, practical advice on the surface (although all good philosophies would, if contemplated deeply enough). The amount of new information that I felt I gained from this section was not proportionate to the amount of pages it took to give this information over. Again, this is my opinion after ONE reading.

[NOTE: In this review I'm going to refer to some things as "philosophical." I hope it is understood what I mean by that. Essentially, that it is more theoretical, academic and meant to be contemplated, as opposed to direct practical down-to-Earth advice. For example, the discussion of "what is magic," as in Chapter 1, is what I would call "philosophical." I hope that makes sense.]

He then gets into the importance of dramatizing the trick and keeping the "curve of interest" going up, meaning everything that leads up to the magic moment, i.e. the conflict. He talks about how to keep their interest, not allow the necessary process to get boring or confusing, and gives good examples to illustrate. I felt this part of the chapter was back to more "practical" advice (vs. philosophical). This is about 10 pages.

He then goes into a discussion of "presentation" vs. "representation." Some deep stuff here. It involves presentation of the trick, story, character and personality.

He talks about how to blend presentations/stories into your tricks and to do it in a way that doesn't negatively affect the magic (by being distracting, for example), only raises it up.

He continues to give more pointers on how to use presentation properly, and what styles of presentations are good/not good (some of the not good ones are commonly used by magicians today). All of this about presentation was pretty useful stuff. (These last 3 paragraphs I wrote run about 20 pages in the book).

Next, he talks about Time: Starts off by talking about time, not in the sense of "timing" and when to do a move, but the pacing of a show. He gives examples of different famous magicians and highlights the time/rhythm of their performance styles. He talks about the importance of rhythm in a show and its importance in techniques. He gives examples and mentions the use of a metronome- any Tamariz fan will be familiar with this, but it's cool to read it in this book, and I think there is always more you can communicate on paper. He gives more examples of tricks to show how important the rhythm is.

This leads into the "beats" in a performance, and although he uses his own terms - not the common term "the off-beat" - this is essentially what this is about.

He then talks about "the pause"; the many types of pauses and how/when they should and must be used. This was another great section.

Then he gets into timing and how it relates more to misdirection, to help distract the audience without them realizing they've been distracted. He mentions 7 elements that make up technique and how the coordination of these 7 elements is what makes up proper timing. (The previous 4 sections I wrote about runs about 50 pages in the book.)

The last 15 pages (approximately) of the chapter deal with Patter: He gives 2 approaches to explain what he defines as "patter," and let's just say it goes far beyond just the words you say. He shows how just by carefully scripting your words you can "create" rhythm and gives an example from his repertoire- I thought this was brilliant. He ends off the last few pages of this chapter with some general thoughts on scripting.

Overall, a very good chapter; lots of great thoughts and ideas and practical advice here. As I mentioned before, some of it seemed to drag on a bit more than necessary and maybe could've spared some pages, but maybe upon future readings I'll find every word was gold.

CHAPTER 6 (less than 15 pages)

Highlights what he calls "The Seven Veils of Magic" and briefly explains each one. Not very heavy stuff here. Each of these seven can be a whole philosophical discussion on their own, but he doesn't get lengthy.

He ends off with a few short, poetic-style essays.

CHAPTER 7 (less than 15 pages)

Describes The Magic Pyramid. This is his opinion of what is the foundation of magic, what elements are built on top of it, and in what order. Spends some time on each level of the pyramid and gives some examples to clarify his points. Again, this is more of a philosophical discussion, without as much DIRECT practical advice, although obviously understanding the pyramid will inform you what to focus on, in what order, how much, etc.

[NOTE: It's not that I got lazy in my review of the last 2 chapters. As I noted, they were both short Smile.]

CHAPTER 8 (about 55 pages)

Begins by talking about impromptu magic and the power it can have. Goes on for 5 pages giving examples of how to prepare yourself for an impromptu miracle and how you have so many opportunities daily to create such tricks. Ends off by stressing the mileage you can get out of a single prop you have on you. I enjoyed these pages.

He spends the next 35+ pages talking about comedy. The MANY different types of comedy and lines, how they play into magic and all the MANY benefits comedy can have in magic and when comedy is appropriate to use. Note: He is NOT teaching you how to be funny, or giving you "funny" lines for your show. I haven't given any details here, but it's a very good section.

Then a short essay on stage manipulation.

The last 5 pages of the chapter end off with him discussing mental magic, more specifically the so-called "ethics" involved in giving people the impression you can do these feats of "mentalism."

CHAPTER 9 (about 25 pages)

He talks about the structuring of your tricks, routines and acts into a full show ("session"). He gives an actual example of a close-up show he put together and explains why he structured it as he did. He gets very involved in constructing a close-up show, as well as a stage show, and shows that can run up to 2 hours long. Again, he gives examples from his own repertoire to illustrate his points. There are nice theories in here about routining (a word we all use but Microsoft Word does not think it's a word) that can be applied to put together your own show. The last page is an outline of a 2-hour show of his that refers back to the theories of routining that he explained; it's a nice example to sum up what was explained in the chapter.

CHAPTER 10 (less than 15 pages)

He talks about the importance of good technique and knowing many techniques; gives and explains 8 benefits. Some useful thoughts here.

The last few pages talk about what to do when things go wrong. He first talks in general and then specifically in card magic, but I think some of these ideas can surely be tweaked and applied elsewhere. I found some good ideas here. The very end talks about being prepared beforehand for what can go wrong.

CHAPTER 11 (about 10 pages)

Begins with a short section dealing with the art of magic and a few other concepts.

Then he goes on to talk about his personal preferences in magic: what types of tricks he likes, presentations, etc.

Ends off with a personal account of his experience appearing on a TV show (he himself says there's nothing new or novel in this section).

CHAPTER 12 (less than 10 pages)

He talks about magicians being spectators of magic and the need to get "the magician" out of you and just appreciate it the way you did when you were a layman.

APPENDIX 1 (about 15 pages)

Essays on the comparison between magic and other arts: storytelling, film, drama, music and painting. I found the one about painting to be the most intriguing, because I often heard people say they took inspiration from painting to their magic and I never really got what that could mean. He explains how attention control is a factor in painting and compares it to that of magic (i.e. misdirection), which I found to be pretty cool (as if that's what people were referring to when they say they get inspiration from painting...). He uses an actual painting as an example, one of the few pictures in the whole book.

APPENDIX 2 (about 20 pages)

The first couple pages are a personal account about his history in magic and how he transitioned into the deeper aspects (discussed in this book): art, symbolism, etc. Nothing really added to what he wrote throughout the book.

The next 5 pages go through 22 different effects with cards (not specific tricks, but general categories of effects in card magic) and he points out the emotions, symbolism and myths that go along with each.

The next 8 pages or so go through a longer list of 37 tricks (not just general categories of effects) with cards and points out the emotions, symbolism and myths that go along with each.

APPENDIX 3 (less than 20 pages)

Gives a very detailed list of all the "wishes" of mankind; all the things people desire. It's 9 main categories, but there are sub-categories and he gives many examples.

The final 10 or so pages go through these "wishes" and connect them to the tricks that fulfill these desires.

I only skimmed these lists, but I found them interesting. Definitely good inspiration for presentations of your tricks. Overall, my feelings on this are similar to what I wrote in my 2nd paragraph on Chapter 5: It's nice and useful to use as a "reference," but did it need to take up 20 pages (!) of this book?

Anyway, that concludes my "brief" synopsis of this MAMMOTH of a book.

I'll give some general comments and then end off with my verdict.

Some general things I did NOT like:

-Overall, this is a wonderful book. What bothered me the most was not about what WAS in the book, rather what WASN'T in the book. I'll explain: It's no secret that Juan Tamariz is arguably the greatest thinker about many aspects of magic in our generation, among these he is known to be a master of the psychological facets of magic performance. If you're familiar with Dani Daortiz's work, you know he is a genius at the psychology of words, actions, misdirection, drama, etc. in his magic. And he constantly refers to Juan Tamariz and talks about him as his teacher, which I don't doubt. Therefore, I was anticipating more of this type of psychology and brilliant thinking of Mr. Tamariz in this book. Don't get me wrong; there is a lot of that in this book (for example, the section on memory that I talked highly about), but I was hoping there'd be more. One example is: People often refer to a famous theory of Mr. Tamariz about placing the initial phase and magical phase of a trick in the same "space" to create a much stronger impression in the audience's mind of the magic change (for example, the display of a card and then the display of another card that it changes to, or showing a coin in your hand and then showing it empty). This is a theory I'm fascinated by and I was looking forward to getting deeper into it in this book. I was disappointed when this theory was merely mentioned as a sidepoint in one line of parentheses! The types of theories that Dani Daortiz talks about can easily fill a book this size, and I was hoping this book would be heavier on those things.

This is definitely a matter of opinion, but I was more looking forward to the down-to-Earth practical advice in psychology, showmanship, etc. (in the style of Darwin Ortiz's Strong Magic and Designing Miracles, Maestro Ascanio's Structural Conception of Magic, Showmanship for Magicians, and others), and I found the book to be more theoretical, philosophical, etc. than I would have hoped. And just to be clear where I'm coming from: I am very well-read in all areas of magic, including all the major books on magic theory. If I was someone that isn't into these types of books, it would make sense that I wouldn't be impressed by this book; but I am into these things. I just wanted to mention that the opinions expressed here are coming from someone that is well-read and into these subjects.

-He often uses diagrams to illustrate points. Maybe people find these helpful. I personally like diagrams when there are many factors to juggle in your mind so it makes it clear and easy to see on paper. These diagrams are more of just a visual aid; nothing the average person couldn't hold in his head without it. So I personally wasn't into them and to me it was just a waste of space, but hey, this is just my opinion; some people may benefit from them.

-One last thing: The book is written in a very poetic, metaphoric style. Some parts more than others (obviously the philosophical essays are more so than the straight advice). I don't mean this as something bad at all, it didn't really bother me, but at the same time it wasn't really my taste, and I could understand someone not going for it. However, I don't think it was over the top and distracting.

To end on a high note, some general things I DID like:

-A huge thing I really liked and took out from this book was seeing Juan Tamariz's humility to the legends of magic. Obviously I couldn't detail or point all these out, but all along the way he is constantly referring to theories of Ascanio, Slydini, Vernon , Frakson, Lavand, etc., and it's just an amazing thing to see such a magic giant speak so highly of others. It's a message to our generation how important the previous generation was and still is and that we should be respectful of that and make sure to know our history, crediting... (sorry, this isn't my place for preaching). Another plus is that you're getting plenty of theories of the magic legends sprinkled all throughout this book, many of which you should already be familiar with if you're reading it, but it's still cool to see Maestro Tamariz refer to the theories and see where and how he applies them.

-I have to say it is very well-written. There are less typos than most magic books I've read (in fact, very few typos), and considering how big this book is, that's really something. Some of the sentence structure is a little funny and there are very long sentences, but this may be due to translation while trying to keep his exact words, or maybe it's a fancier writing style than I'm not used to (or both!). But the text is completely understandable.

-It refers you to other sources when necessary. In general, the usage of footnotes is done well; what they chose to put in footnotes as opposed to the main text.

-It is written in a very systematic way, where the later sections and concepts build onto the previous ones. And each section is divided nicely and clearly, and not all over the place and jumping from one idea to the next, as you see in some other publications.

-He summarizes the main points at the end of many sections, which I found very helpful to recap the highlights of his thoughts after a long section.

My verdict:

I saw many comments about this book saying "if you're serious about your magic, you NEED this book," or something to that effect. I'll be very honest, and of course this is just my opinion, you don't NEED it. This is an expensive book. If you are going through your career without reading these types of books and you're happy with that, then continue to do so. (I think you SHOULD read these types of books and incorporate the theories into your work, but who am I to preach?)

If you DO read these types of books, then you may be familiar with a lot of these theories/philosophies and this book may not have $150-worth of information to add. Granted, it's Mr. Tamariz's take on these theories, which I think is noteworthy. But to bring it back to our discussion, I don't think you necessarily NEED it. The brain fodder put forth in Darwin Ortiz's books (not that you have to agree with everything he says, but he gives you many things to think about and pay attention to) is a great background for all the theories and philosophies that I would quicker call "necessary" for the average magician.

However, if you are a serious student of magic, meaning not just into tricks, but also the theory and psychology, then you obviously respect Juan Tamariz as top-notch and you will likely want to have this on your shelf.

So, to sum it up:

-If you're NOT into magic showmanship, philosophy, theory, psychology, etc. and all that good stuff, then you will probably not enjoy this book.

-Now, as a student of magic, you may anyway feel like you should have a book representing Juan Tamariz's life's work on your shelf; that's up to you to decide. Definitely if you are a collector of magic then this is something to have: it's a beautiful book, nice cover, nice print, well-written, and it represents the man that is arguably the "Dai Vernon" of our generation, so to speak.

-If you ARE into the types of things I've described from this book, then there will DEFINITELY be sections of this book you will like. However, if you are very familiar with and well-read in the books on similar subjects, you most probably will not find EVERY word in this book revolutionary to you, and therefore you may not find it to be worth your hard-earned $150. However, if you're like me, then even though you may be familiar with many theoretical subjects of magic, to own a near-600 page book by a true master of our time consisting of all his takes on these theories should be well worth your time and money.

I hope this review was useful to potential purchasers, or at the very least (or the very most), a nice outline for those that have the book to help refer back to some of the major points.

All the best,

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Thanks so much for such a detailed review ! Very impressive. Having read most of theorical magic books, I can feel precisely what you think of this book. And as I was so often disappointed by such called philosophical essays (like the one by Burger just to mention a name, which are almost empty of anything of value, just very basic considerations), I suspect I will feel the same for this one too. We are so far from the deep thinking of Kant, Hegel to name a few. Hope Tamariz will have showed some paths to explore at least.
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On Apr 29, 2019, Rachmaninov wrote:
Thanks so much for such a detailed review ! Very impressive. Having read most of theorical magic books, I can feel precisely what you think of this book. And as I was so often disappointed by such called philosophical essays (like the one by Burger just to mention a name, which are almost empty of anything of value, just very basic considerations), I suspect I will feel the same for this one too. We are so far from the deep thinking of Kant, Hegel to name a few. Hope Tamariz will have showed some paths to explore at least.

Hey, Rachmaninov, thanks. Just want to be clear on my position. Your response implied I was disappointed with the philosophical essays. I don't think that's the correct word. They have their place and are nice to read and contemplate. It's just that I had hoped the book would be 600 pages of all of Tamariz's pure genius shining through in practical advice and theories (like in The Magic Way which is a brilliant book).

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I was not suggesting you were disappointed by the fact that there is some philosophical essays, but rather by the contents of those essays.
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