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Finally it is the weekend (for some of us) and I have decided rather than watching the film my brother loaned me for a night or two (it’s been two weeks now) I am going to grace you all with my presence on the review scene. I will even do you the courtesy of keeping it short. Ish. The Cider in my blood stream may change that
Things that have taken up most of my time this month: Work (Oh god work), drinking, driving (three hours each way) to see my boyfriend and reading. The latter is what I shall be telling you about today (the reading, not the seeing the boyfriend, that’s a WHOLE different website). The book I have been delving into this month has been Derren Brown’s “Tricks of the Mind”.
That’s not my name
Derren Brown has made a name for himself through his channel four TV series such as Mind Control and Trick or Treat and also one off events such as a live game of Russian roulette and teaching members of the public how to pull of a bank heist. One could probably just about get away with calling him a magician but he has such a wide range of tomfoolery that this description leaves a lot to be desired. Mr Brown uses a mixture of psychology, misdirection and being a devious bastard. Kind of like Paul Daniels but cooler, slightly better looking and with much better illusions. Also he doesn’t have that dried up bag (Debbie, I believe her name is) hanging off him. Probably because he’s gay, but more than likely just because he is not that tacky.
I bought this book just after Christmas when I was high on pudding and turkey and the fact I had £40 worth of book vouchers to spend frivolously on…well… books. This meant that I could not only buy all the books that I desperately wanted, I could also buy all the books that I judged by their covers (a method that has actually worked out incredibly well for me both in life AND in the book shop). I have had it in my “to read” pile since then, slowly getting nearer the top. £7.99 well spent!
Better the devil you know
This books cover had a man who I (and lets pretend I didn’t tell you this) have a bit of a crush on, coupled with a rather funky devil and some pretty blue skies. I was intrigued enough to read the first few pages. With an opening consisting of “The Bible is not history” I was sold.
This book is not what a lot of people believe it is going to be. A lot of my friends assumed it was going to be an auto biography. Others assumed it was going to be a book of magic tricks to satisfy your kiddies with. On the contrary, this book is a delightful look into a lot of the techniques that Brown uses to put on his acts. Not only does it tell you how to use them, it gives you a lot of incredibly interesting history about each technique. There is a light smattering of details of his life but no more than you really need to know. The book is split up into a few sections that I’ll run through now with you!
Part 1: Disillusionment
Effectively the introduction Brown takes you to a part of his past I hadn’t ever heard about. Apparently Brown used to be an incredibly obnoxious devout Christian (to the bible bashing degree). He briefly and rather wisely discusses this first before moving on to the audience’s relation with magicians. It makes him seem a lot more harmless and you realise that he too is human.
Part 2: Magic
This section, as you may have realised, takes you through a couple of small tricks and discusses not only the slight of hand required to make them work but the presentation of the trick. It lets you see just how much can go into a successful performance and the depth of the deception that goes on in even the smallest of tricks.
It also starts to look into things like ideomotor movements (another crazily interesting part of human construction which basically means if you think you might start leaning to the left sometime soon, you will automatically start leaning ever so slightly to the left without realising it)
Part 3: Memory
Another thing Brown is famous for is his amazing ability to remember. Even elephants envy him. This section deals with his techniques for memory aids and is, quite frankly, brilliant. He writes in a way that allows you to try out the techniques as you are reading and if you do as he says then you will shock yourself. At one point he lists 20 random objects. After a quick glance at the list and a five minute read of the technique you will be able to remember all 20 objects and the exact order they were listed in. I read the section about 3 weeks ago and I can still list the objects. It works. It works bloody brilliantly.
Part 4: Hypnosis and suggestibility
As the title suggests, Brown takes us into the history of hypnosis and gives us a few things to try out on yourself and your friends. This section really took my interest as it discusses why people react to hypnosis on stage and gives you some brilliant tools to relax with (one section even deals with getting rid of phobias which many could probably find helpful). This section also touches on a subject called Neuro-lingquistic Programming. Again, interesting, but rather hard to explain. Read the book.
Part 5: Unconscious communications
This section deals quite a lot with body language and how to spot lies. This section doesn’t seem to go into that much depth since the science of spotting lies seems to still be quite up in the air with no true method of doing it pinned down. Still makes for interesting reading!
Part 6: Anti-science, Pseudo-science and Bad Thinking
This was one of my favourite sections. Brown takes the opportunity to discuss snake oil salesmen, so called psychics and a bunch of other ambiguous and dodgy characters that will use the techniques he has discussed to try and fool the world. Touching on beliefs will always be a controversial issue but I feel the opening paragraph where he explained his previously devout nature makes it slightly more OK for him to be commenting on things. I get the impression a lot of miffed, debunked tricksters like to use the defence that he doesn’t know anything about religion, faith or belief systems to question them, whereas he actually knows a hell of a lot about them. He actually knows a hell of a lot about everything by the sounds of things. Awesome.
To finish the book we are given some closing thoughts and a few examples of correspondence the man himself has received through his line of work. Some are hilariously naive, others down right creepy. Brown also leaves you with a rather huge list of further reading, listing any book or collection of work he has made reference to throughout this amazing piece.
So, now you know what is discussed, how about the writing style? I am happy to say that Brown has a brilliant way with words and makes the entire read very enjoyable, throwing in his sharp wit regularly and occasionally recounting hilarious tales from his youth. He makes each subject very easy to understand and stupendously interesting without belittling the reader. He also makes his points in a very clear, balanced and sensible manner. Go him.
No, you didn’t just dance the funky chicken
I wouldn’t particularly recommend this to anyone who can’t see past the page of their bible mainly because those types will deem the whole book as blasphemy. Those who are remotely open minded will find this book to be a welcome addition to their collection. I’d say give his TV shows a watch and if they interest you, read this book. It WILL fascinate you and you WILL wake up with no memory of the previous few days and feeling refreshed.