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After reading (okay, listening to it on audiobook) "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern and being absolutely blown away by this fantastic, magical, creative book I thought about all the other great books about magic and magicians I've read and decided to compile a list for those who, like me, love a good magic book! (Personally I think it should be a fiction genre!)
I think Magic is really a great metaphor for storytelling and storytellers in a way.
Why do people pay to go see magic shows? Don't people hate being tricked or lied to? Sure magic is all about being "tricked," but because you go into a magic show expecting to be tricked and choosing the experience, rather than having the experience forced upon you, the experience is pleasurable. You are in on the deception and ultimately in control. I once heard Penn Gillette talk about this in a podcast, explaining the difference between "spiritualist mediums" who basically lie to their clients and take advantage of people's emotional vulnerabilities, to magicians who are completely open with their audience about the fact that what they do is try to fool their senses. The pleasure comes from the wonder that someone can make the illusion seem so seamless. It's similar to the pleasure one gets from seeing an amazing painting. You marvel at the skill of the artisan which is so above what you can do and the cleverness of the tricks and try to puzzle out how the illusion is achieved.
Storytellers do the same thing, that is why I think magic is such a frequently used metaphor for storytelling. The audience and the tale-teller strike a bargain, the storyteller must strive to entertain, while the audience must agree to suspend disbelief. Because both audience and storyteller are willing participants in the enterprise no one is used, or deceived unwillingly.
This is why art is called "the lie that tells the truth."
I think when you lul the audience into a sense of security with the "this is all the wonderful world of make-believe" and doesn't relate at all to real life, people are able to put some of their prejudices and preconceived notions on the shelf and experience what you have to offer freely, without inhibition. In this way authors, artists, storytellers and jesters have historically been able to discuss things and expose ridiculousness and pomposity in a way they would not be free to in any other context.
In magic and art we can be free to be whoever our hearts desire us to be, and allow an author or magician to act as our conduit to a world where we don't have to wear the mask of civility, realism or propriety. As an author I feel myself entrusted with an emense responsiblity. When someone reads your book, they give you a slice of their time, yes, but reading, watching a film or listening to music is sort of like a direct pipeline to the imagination. It is letting the work of another person enter your deepest heart the way a dream does. It is up to you, to try to leave that other person in a better state than when you came to them, to give them something that is real, not to enter their soul and purposely violate it. You must give them what they expect and desire and then give them something even more.
I feel like it is up to me to not just express myself and put my feelings out there, but to put something positive and beautiful into the world that never existed before and that only I could ever make. It's a pretty cool thing when you think about it that way!