It has been many years since I have sat down and read a magic book from cover to cover in only a few days, but it just happened with Michael Perovich’s The Vernon Companion. The book arrived Saturday, I began reading that evening and finished the book this morning (Tuesday). I read it in fifty- to sixty-page binges and then finished with a push. My previous post documented my thoughts on design, organization and writing style, but I would like to follow up with comments on the content in the last section of the book.
In addition to the line art illustrations throughout the book (by Colin Fleming), there are eight pages of color photographs (11 images in total) that range from childhood images of Vernon and his brother Charles, to images of Vernon’s father and uncle, and then images of Vernon with contemporaries. The selection of images is interesting in that the early ones don’t necessarily connect with any particular stories and the latter ones are candid shots that reflect some characters in the stories. It seems to me that I have not seen any of these images before.
Back to the written content. About halfway through the book is a collection of stories and observations from friends of Vernon. Most of these are “related by” in that they are in Perovich’s voice, but a few are in the contributor’s words. I really enjoy Perovich’s writing style and, thankfully, the contributor voices mesh pretty well. There are additional stories “related by” others in other chapters as well and Perovich has done a wonderful job of tying them in where they best fit the discussion at hand.
Looking back, Perovich has done a wonderful job of introducing the reader to aspects of Vernon (and early Magic Castle culture) that have not really been articulated in other sources. I admire the thoughtfulness of the approach as it is crafted to engage the reader in such a way that keeps the interest level high. A list of the chapter titles gives an idea of the approach: Introducing the Professor, The Grandfather Stories, Vernon and Company, Commentary, Observations, The Professor Himself, Stories and Observations by his Friends, The Raconteur, and The Urban Legends.
The final sixty-four pages consist of a series of appendices and an index that detail the physical experience of The Magic Castle as it was in the 1970s (I would have loved to see a floor plan and some photographs); an encapsulated history of Vernon described by the decade (this is a remarkably concise, while thorough overview of Vernon’s life); a chapter on “Vernon’s World” – those people (patrons, gamblers, magicians, etc.) who influenced him; a glossary of the “Magicians of The Magic Castle” (circa 1970-1980) who were significant parties in the culture enabled by The Magic Castle (founders and “family”). The book concludes with an Index of Names for easy reference (something we see too little of these days in magic books).
If I had to boil a characterization of this book down to one word, I would say, “Lore.” The author has provided a wonderful gift to the magic world – he has provided a glimpse into the people and culture surrounding Vernon which was enabled by The Magic Castle, its founders and habitués. While not a teaching book, there are many lessons to be learned. For those of us who never met Vernon and have never been to The Magic Castle, this book is the finest way to experience a time gone by: through the eyes of thoughtful observer and participant.
I truly enjoyed the ride and it gave me an appreciation for a place and time that have influenced (and will continue to influence) magicians for years to come…
Thanks to Micheal Perovich for sharing this with the world.