Book Review: Talk About Tricks

Talk About Tricks

A month or two ago, I saw a post on Instagram on Vanishing Inc. account (@vanishingincmagic) that was announcing Talk About Tricks, and I thought it looked neat. I didn't read the caption during my mindless scrolling, so it really didn't register that it was that Talk About Tricks. A few days after that, I saw the same post on Joshua Jay's account (@joshuajaymagician) that I started to realize that this could be a book to buy!

And so, I waited. The sale went live at like 11am or something and I was there pretty much on the dot, and then I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw that it was $250. And there were two books. Did I have to buy them separately or was the order for both?! It didn't say -- but it also didn't give an option to select either volume so I went with the idea that it was for both (spoiler: it was!).

The books arrived 2 days later, the fastest shipping I've ever had from Vanishing. And no, I didn't select expedited at all, just the regular free VI+ shipping like usual. I almost threw my back out lifting the box too, holy crap that thing was heavy. When I opened it though, my oh my.

MAGIC and Joshua Jay

A little background here, for those who aren't familiar. Talk About Tricks is a less of a curated selection of tricks and, instead, every Talk About Tricks column from MAGIC, a magic magazine that discontinued in 2016, that Joshua Jay was the writer for. His tenure lasted from 2001 through 2013, and this book includes every single one of them!

The column was one where magicians could submit close-up magic tricks and, if they were selected, they would be published. Each issue contained an average of between 4 to 6 routines. 12 years. Wow!

On the product page for the book(s), it says that there were 144 issues. And that's semi-accurate, except they included two additional issues in the book - March 2001 and September 2016. The March 2001 issue, Joshua Jay was a guest-writer for the column via Stan Allen. In 2016 when Stan Allen decided to stop the magazine, he asked Jay back again to write the final column. So, 146 issues!

Ah, but let's talk about Joshua Jay a tiny bit. In the book, like the magazine, you'll see his mugshot at the beginning of every issue. He grows through the years, and you see it. He started out writing for the column at age 18! Whoa! I didn't know that, nor did I ever think about it. When I got back into magic, his name was just one of the ones everyone knew. Unfortunately, as he covers in the Introduction, he did cop quite a bit of flack for it. I understand to a point. If you think about it, kids aren't really the ones subscribing to magic magazines en masse -- it's the older group. And here's this teen, fresh out of high school, writing in every issue.

I'm glad to see that he was able to stick to it and from skimming some of the months over the years, I can see how the public grew up with him.

One thing that this book has that the magazine also had, and this is kind of a downside, is the gaff pages. Like the "tear out these pages, make copies of them, and do the routine" type of gaff pages. In the Introduction, Jay does admit that some of these didn't hold up well -- but at least with a magazine we would have been able to try. There's no way I'm ripping a page out of this book. What would have been nice is if Vanishing Inc. supplied a PDF of all of those pages that we could print separately. I'm sending them a support inquiry as we speak =]

The Longest Table of Contents and the Best Index I've Ever Seen

That pretty much sums it up, but I'll elaborate for fun anyways.

The table of contents is 30 pages long. Thirty. Three-Zero. It spans from page V to page XXXV. That's "vee" to "ex ex ex vee", for those of you who speak Roman.

It's very, very nicely formatted too. Broken out by issue, it has the routine, the author(s), the diamond-rated difficulty, and the page. For everything. Holy smokes. I've never thought I would ever be flipping through a book's table of contents and wonder "jeez, when will it end" -- but it happened! Luckily, only the first volume contains the contents. The page numbers span both books, and they're properly continuous. So that's nice.

If you're interested in seeing the Contents in all its glory, I typed it all here: Talk About Tricks - Contents.

But let's talk about that Index for a hot minute. It starts on page 1255 and ends on the last page, 1294. Oh, wow, it's longer than the Contents!

When I was typing the contents out, I had a fun thought. I would, after finished, get some stats on how many different authors there were and how many of each trick type there were. You know, fun math. And then, I came to the Index at the very end of Volume Two. Why I didn't flip to it when I first got the books, no idea. But here I was, the last minute of typing and before me was the holy grail of indexes.

It has four sections:

  • By Creator
    • This section lists each author, in alphabetical order (by last name... including Anonymous), and all the routines they submitted over the years.
  • By Category
    • This section lists every category of routine that exists in the two volumes which include Bar Magic, Bills, Business Cards, Cards, Card Boxes, Classics, Coins, Cups & Balls, Gambling, Impromptu Tricks, Misc., Parlour/Stage, Sandwiches, Two-Card Transpos, and Walkaround Routines! And yes, a trick can be in multiple categories -- and quite a few are.
  • Expert Talks
    • Each and every Expert Talk article, alphabetical by talk title.
  • Yearly Top Ten Picks
    • A list of every year that Joshua Jay printed a "Top Ten", and which routines were selected. This one's handy as a reference since they aren't in all of the years.

They really could have just cut it cheap and listed each trick by page number in the Index, but they went what I would say is the extra mile here. I was kind of dreading having to do all of that on my own just so I could have a better reference and heck if I'm not super happy that I don't have to! I might retype the By Category one, since that's useful to have (and because I can easily generate the other three from the content I already entered). We'll see.

Typos and All

Ah, what book doesn't have a classic typo. And what almost-1300-page book isn't full of them! So, from what I can tell, the individual issues are just reprints from the books themselves. If there was a typo there, and there were, they're in the book too. I cracked open two separate MAGIC Magazine issues to confirm and sure enough, it was the same. So, old typo is the same typo.

That leaves us with only the Introduction and Index really... oh, and the Contents. There are one or two typos in the Contents, surprisingly. I really would have figured that they would either catch it while typing it, or in editing. Some of the tricks were misspelled, like May 2006's Illegallly Yours -- notice the extra "l"? But hey, I digress. How many people are really going to go through the Contents like I did?

Though, up above, when I mentioned the bonus March 2001 issue, the Contents section has a slight typo and lists it as March 2011. This threw me for a loop because, when I first read it, I was thinking "hey, wait, did they print two issues in March 2011?!" But no, it was actually 2001.  Actually, that one is a big typo. Literally. It's a big font, and bold.

Also up above in the MAGIC and Joshua Jay section, I mentioned how the product page (e.g., the website selling the book) said there were 144 issues, but it really comes out to 146. Well, also on the product page it says that the book contains 868 tricks. Here, I find a bit of a negative discrepancy. If we go by the individual submissions themselves, there are roughly 692 tricks -- not including the Expert Talk articles. There are 75 of those, which still doesn't bring the total up to 868. My guess, and it's a pure guess, is that some of the routines contain multiple tricks? That or, and this is more likely, it was a typo because the actual number of routines plus Expert Talk articles comes out to 767, which is fairly close to 868 on the number pad =P

I'm going to be honest, at this number of tricks, it doesn't matter. With 1294 pages, there's so much content here that it was a bit overwhelming when I first started going through it. Now, I can't get enough! But as far as typos go, that's 100 tricks off which could be considered false advertising.


This book's price tag is, currently, set at $250. While enough to gain free shipping from just about every seller, it's still $250 and that's not cheap. The books together are also heavy as hell -- I think I saw someone on Instagram weigh them and they're around 11.5lbs (and they feel like it too)!

But let's get one thing straight, you're getting way more material than what you're paying for. In this book are magic tricks and articles from almost 150 magazine issues. How much would it have cost to buy each issue individually, or to have been a subscriber for the 12 years these books span? How much would it cost to buy separate books from each of the magicians that submitted tricks that are in Talk About Tricks? I know, right? $250 is starting to look a lot less expensive now!

Now, I have all the MAGIC Magazine issues, thanks to my Genii subscription. I have even scrolled through a few. It in no way compares to holding this book in my hands and flipping through the pages. It's the same material but collected. It's easier to digest and to see how routines build from issue to issue. To call back to the Table of Contents and Index, holy smokes is it convenient the way everything is nicely packaged.

The book's cover, and even dust jacket, are nicely designed. They look like they belong on a magician's shelf, or table for that matter. The material for the pages is pristine. The binding is extra tough. These are built to be used, and I for one will use them.

Now, my only real complaint -- ignoring the typos -- is that Joshua Jay didn't provide any extra commentary or annotations. Sure, I get it. This is just a collection of all of the printings he was the writer for but wouldn't it have been cool for issues here and there for him to have dropped in another paragraph with a "lol, I was up until 3am writing this because I had to study for a midterm that night" or a "hey, this guy also published a book that built off of these ideas - check it out here". Hmm... maybe I'll do a follow-up with some annotations myself =]

I want, no, I need to say thank you. Thank you, Joshua Jay, for working on this and putting it out. Thank you for all the time you put into writing the column over the years and continuing to make the magic community a better place. I'm very happy I picked up this book (or, these books). For anyone else reading this, if you're a book collector or a magician of any level, I do think that you'll be quite happy investing in them too.

To order your own, head on over to Vanishing Inc. and smash that "add to cart" button!

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