Review of Genii December 2021


Exposed!!!! The Sensation of Sensations
Sawing a Lady in Half, who thought of it first?

Genii, The Conjurors' Magazine Volume 84, Number 12 came out in December 2021 and has 87 pages of packed content!

The cover screams of vintage satire in its greatest form:

Cover of Genii's December 2021 Issue
Satirical style cover of Genii's December 2021 Issue

Content, Content, Content!

This issue's main feature is: Sawing a Woman in Half, Shattered Friendships and All-Out War by Mike Caveney.

If you're familiar with Genii, you'll notice the standard list of columns are seen this month with another installment of The River by Joshua Jay:

And as always, the issue is rounded out with Light from the Lamp which includes book reviews (by Francis Menotti, trick reviews (by David Regal), and video reviews (by Ryan Matney).

Sawing the Feature in Half

On Page 16 and 17, readers are greeted with full page art that inspires an ominous tone where the story of the famous trick of sawing a person in half began. We're introduced first to P.T. Selbit, a young boy born Percy Thomas Tibbles, who was destined to become a magician. The quote that's given for him right away is that he was the most creative illusion inventor of his time -- and that's no small feat.

After reading through a decently rich background of Selbit, we are then introduced to Horace Goldin, born Hyman Goldstein. Goldin was a vaudevillian who, unlike other magicians at the time, performed much shorter shows with a lot more magic packed into them.

And this is where the real fun began. Selbit was performing a version of "Sawing Through a Woman" that he invented in Europe. Goldin was performing his invention of "Sawing a Woman in Half" in the United States. But, who created it first and, effectively, had rights to the trick?

On page 37, after diving through this tantalizing tale of background and history, we the readers of Genii are cut off from even a semblance of a resolution. We can, through what was written in these 20 pages, paint our own picture of who invented the trick and who was the villain of the story though. However, the story ends on a cliffhanger, followed by an advertisement to buy the book Sawing: The Astonishing History of Magic's Most Iconic Illusion by Mike Caveney.

I don't think you can understand the frustration I went through when I hit this abrupt ending. There was no pretext that stated that this was an excerpt from a book. There was no warning that we were only previewing a small part of a story. In fact, it started like most other Genii features by introducing the magicians, giving their history, and bringing the story to a height. The difference is, this one ends with:

For the 440-page version of this story, see Mike Caveney's new book, Sawing: The Astonishing History of Magic's Most Iconic Illusion available exclusively from

I promptly closed the issue and tossed it down and didn't pick it back up for a few days. I'm surprised I didn't just throw the thing away to be honest. This was a very cheap thing to do to readers, and seeing that the book is 440 pages - ugh. I don't really think I'll purchase this book. Not out of spite or anger, but actually because of the feature itself. The 20 pages within Genii had so much information that I really feel like I know most of the story already. Everything that happens after is just, well, more history but of less interest to me. I was really interested in seeing "who invented it first" and what was the fallout from it -- and the feature pretty much gives us that. An extra 420 pages more of this?

Caveney, the author of the book and effectively the feature itself, could have laid this out a little more effectively. If it started with a custom introduction to the topic, a mention of the book, and then a highlight or two that was then wrapped up with "do you want to learn X, Y, and Z? are you interested in more?? step right up and $$$!" I think that it would've went a lot further than what's here. I really feel like the saw was pulled out from under my feet on this one.

Column Highlights

The columns in this issue were content-packed as usual. While I read through all of them, here are a few highlights of the ones that stood out to me most.

Fun fact, but this actually happens to be Kaufman's last issue as the author of Genii Speaks for a while. He's taking a step back to work on his book Greater Magic. I'm excited to see this book come to life, it sounds like it's in full production and has contributions from many different magicians on many different topics. As long as it doesn't take as long as Mr. Jenning's Takes it Easy, I think we're good =P

I'm normally a fan of the routines presented in Cardopolis too, and this issue's Master of the Game was no exception. It's a quick gambling demonstration where you place the four Kings on top of the deck, then deal the cards into two hands. The spectator ends up with all four Kings. Easy peasy. Then, you repeat the demonstration by placing the four Kings back on top of the deck and deal out two more hands. The spectator once again has all four Kings, but on turning over your hand you have the four Aces. A mini setup and a second deal is all that is needed - and I really like the emphasis on "you don't need to be an expert [at dealing seconds]" with this one (because I'm not!).

In The Eye, one thing that has caught my eye is the teaser of History's Greatest Mysteries Reveals Houdini's Lost Diaries. If you're unfamiliar, as I am, The History Channel has a show called History's Greatest Mysteries that explores some of, well, history's greatest mysteries. Back in September, they got their hands on a set of Houdini's diaries that have never been examined by the public before! The episode is full of interviews with different experts including Bill Kalush, Penn & Teller, Mike Caveney, RJ Lynch, Paul Zenon, Jonathan Goodwin, Christopher Sandford, Steve Cuiffo, John Cox, Patrick Culliton, Ruth Brandon, and Lee Terbosic. The column does state that we don't really learn anything new about his life but we do get a peek into some interesting diary entries. I have always been a Houdini fan and my oldest son has shown interest lately too so I actually think that, for those who aren't familiar this might be a highly educational thing. It looks like it's available to stream on their website here.

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