It has been a busy fall, with magic of diverse varieties: the second season of my monthly show, Discovering Magic, has been graciously received; The Yankee Magic Collector #16 (I am the editor and producer) has come out with sixteen contributors including many notables in magic; The Yankee Gathering #15 occurred back in November; and I just finished a second season of Christmas at Canterbury performing as 19th-century magician Jonathan Harrington. Add to all that performance showcases, lectures, festivals, fairs and corporate and private one off work, and it has been a very busy ride. This, I hope, explains my absence of late on magicmatters.com. I have a couple of articles in the hopper (including my promised article on William Bagley’s book One Man Show), but I can’t help but gush about a recent acquisition: Michael Perovich’s The Vernon Companion. I am about a third of the way through the book, but I felt compelled to write a brief review to let my friends know that they should act quickly if they want a copy. Here is a revised version of the review I posted this morning on The Genii Forum:
Michael Perovich’s The Vernon Companion arrived yesterday (two days earlier than expected) and I took it with me to my performances yesterday to read while I awaited the opening of the event. I am about a quarter of the way through now and have to say that this is likely going close to the top of my book list of magic books. I’m not going to write a complete review (I haven’t finished the book and I don’t want to rush through it as I am savoring the experience).
The exterior of the book is designed to emulate The Expert at the Card Table (cloth cover, foil stamped, typeface, ruled box and ornaments). It looks and feels quite charming. The end papers are rich “marbled” paper (a facsimile) and there is a sewn-in ribbon to keep your place. I love the simplicity of the design. It is elegant, understated and evocative.
The title of the book employs a bit of word-play that I didn’t perceive on first reading. Now that I’ve broken the spine and gotten into the book’s content, I truly appreciate the title.
The writing is absolutely charming. The short chapters run the gamut detailing stories of Perovich’s time immersed in the community formed around The Magic Castle, and specifically his time spent with Vernon. This is not a heavy book of dry facts and numbers, but a series of stories by, of, and around Vernon (and the Castle); it captures the author’s excitement and enthusiasm for the characters and culture he experienced. This is not a detailed narrative or history, but a wonderful collection of stories that reveal much of the time and individuals who were drawn to what was becoming a mecca for magic.
The stories are brief (even terse) usually only encompassing two or three pages, but each has a specific perspective and a sense of whimsy that usually carries with it a bit of wisdom to be learned. This lesson is not presented as pedantic ramblings, rather as amusing anecdotes that a thoughtful reader might interpret in a way to better their perspective not only on magic, but also on life. Perovich’s choice of stories reveals much about the author without any of the usual grandstanding that oft accompanies this type of work. His writing has created a wonderful magic trick – the vanishing author. I found myself repeatedly engaged by this book in way that makes me feel like I am in the room listening to Perovich telling me the stories. He has a warm, unaffected style that really draws you in.
The illustrations (by Colin Fleming) add an additional layer of charm to the book. His style is amusing, and has a cartoon-like style (without be cartoon-y) that adds a contemporary sense of nostalgia to the proceedings.
Looking ahead, the book contains remembrances of other Vernon students (also Castle aficionados) that I look forward to reading as well.
Only 600 of these have been produced and I believe that less than 160 remain available (apparently Hermetic Press saw a flurry of orders this morning). I hope that you don’t miss the opportunity to add this to your library.
You can find samples of the book (and order it) here: Michael Perovich’s The Vernon Companion.