Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown.
one man amongst all the hags,
here...in Witch Prison!
Derren Brown is one of those people who are fabulously famous in the United Kingdom but utterly unknown in the United States. I happened to catch his mini series on Sci Fi-- Mind Control With Derren Brown-- & was utterly blown away by it. He uses what he calls "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection & showmanship" in order to pull off stunts that are really jaw droppingly clever. It is more than just wow factor-- conceptually they are brilliant & they are executing with a sort of self-deprecating charisma that is really engaging. He has a sort of high cunning-- you only ever hear people talk about low cunning, but he's got a rarefied brand of it. I'd add hypnosis & the art of the short & the long con to his list of credentials-- he can swing close up magic, stage magic, whatever other sorts you like. Because Derren Brown's entire repertoire relies on tricks, he has a profound sense of ethics about it-- his mechanisms are inherently dishonest, but you know they are, & he's up front about it. He's an honest fraud, but of the highest caliber. I have, at various times, gone on a tangent praising Derren Brown, so fordmadoxfraud picked this up for me, & found the book so engaging that he finished it himself before handing it over. High effing praise, right? The first time I cracked the book open, I found myself cackling like a witch on the R train. The book is an odd duck-- instructive bits on palming pennies & basic hypnosis alongside musing on skepticism & belief, discussion of classical Ars Memorativa, all interjected with personal anecdotes & told in a jocular (almost avuncular) manner. "Triumphantly urinating on the group," indeed Mister Brown. There is a bit of disconnect between the UK & the US here-- homeopathy isn't our particular brand of pseudoscientific poison-- but I'm surprised this hasn't found stateside distribution yet. Derren Brown's relative anonymity here in America affords him opportunities to operate as a huckster without getting called out, so maybe he'll cross the pond sometime soon. I will end this by sharing a few of my favorite bits from Mind Control With Derren Brown-- dream programming, making the sun disappear, subliminal advertising & playing nine simultaneous games of chess. All highly recommended snippets.