In the vein of Neil Strauss’ The Game and Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein comes the fascinating story of one man’s colorful, mysterious, and personal journey into the world of magic, and his unlikely invitation into an underground secret society of revolutionary magicians from around the world.
Magic Is Dead is Ian Frisch’s head-first dive into a hidden world full of extraordinary characters and highly guarded secrets. It is a story of imagination, deception, and art that spotlights today’s most brilliant young magicians—a mysterious club known as the52, who are revolutionizing an ancient artform under the mantra Magic Is Dead.
Ian brings us with him as he not only gets to know this fascinating world, but also becomes an integral part of it. We meet the52’s founding members—Laura London, Daniel Madison, and Chris Ramsay—and explore their personal demons, professional aspirations, and what drew them to their craft. We join them at private gatherings of the most extraordinary magicians working today, follow them to magic conventions in Las Vegas and England, and discover some of the best tricks of the trade. We also encounter David Blaine; hang out with Penn Jillette; meet Dynamo, the U.K.’s most famous magician; and go behind the scenes of a Netflix magic show. Magic Is Dead is also a chronicle of magic’s rich history and how it has changed in the internet age, as the young guns embrace social media and move away from the old-school take on the craft.
As he tells the story of the52, and his role as its most unlikely member, Ian reveals his own connection with trickery and deceit and how he first learned the elements that make magic work from his poker-playing mother. He recalls their adventures in card rooms and casinos after his father’s sudden death, and shares a touching moment that he had, as a working journalist, with his childhood idol Shaquille O’Neal.
“Magic—the romanticism of the inexplicable, the awe and admiration of the unexpected—is an underlying force in how we view the world and its myriad possibilities,” Ian writes. As his journey continues, Ian not only becomes a performer and creator of magic—even fooling the late Anthony Bourdain during a chance encounter—he also cements a new brotherhood, and begins to understand his relationship with his father, fifteen years after his death. Written with psychological acuity and a keen eye for detail, Magic Is Dead is an engrossing tale full of wonder and surprise.
Journalist Frisch is led down the rabbit hole of magic and toward a greater appreciation of life's wonderment in this highly entertaining and deeply felt look into the world of magicians. Frisch regales readers with accounts of his deepening friendship with the 52, a cabal of young magicians looking to "shake things up" and move magic past the "loud, brash, fast-paced, flamboyant" style of David Copperfield. The group, named for the number of cards in a deck, was founded in 2013 by magicians Laura London, Daniel Madison, and Chris Ramsay, though the "World's Most Secretive Society" of the subtitle is a bit of a stretch on Frisch's part, as many of the members are present on Instagram and YouTube (like Laura London and Chris Ramsay). Nevertheless, he ably captures the transcendent allure of their magic, not just describing the tricks he learns (such as the Diagonal Palm Shift, a simple sleight-of-hand), but imparting the awe such deceptions can deliver. Soon, Frisch is performing magic with his new comrades at conventions and carousing with them in Las Vegas and Barcelona. Frisch's enthusiastic deep dive into the world of magic is infectious enough that it just might send readers to the stores for their own magic sets.