TOOLBOX MAKE LOOKS AT BOOKS
The Total Trickster
Dunninger’s Complete Encyclopedia of Magic by Joseph Dunninger
Spring Books $6–$15 (used)
In the old days, magicians had to make their own magical apparatus.
This aspect of magic — as a handicraft — is wonderfully demonstrated
in the out-of-print, but not hard-to-find, book titled Dunninger’s
Complete Encyclopedia of Magic.
This book is a compilation of short 1920s magazine articles about
stage illusions, party tricks, puppet construction, pocket tricks,
tricks employing electricity, and kitchen table science. The pages
cover hundreds of illusions, from the very simple to the extremely
complex. One trick requires only a deck of cards, a sharp knife,
and a few minutes of practice. The illusion on the very next page
requires a theater stage, a windlass, stagehands, and an armored
knight on horseback!
The author assumes the reader is a capable maker: essential
secrets are revealed and diagrammed, but step-by-step instructions are rarely given. The 288 pages are profusely illustrated with
vintage black-and-white line drawings. The type is blotchy or small
in a few spots, but always legible. The somewhat overly formal
writing is delightfully old-fashioned.
Published several times over the last four decades, Dunninger’s
can be found in red paperback or black hardcover (shown).
Tales of the First Build
A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan
Random House $14
Being somewhat more accustomed to the tools of pen and The
Chicago Manual of Style than to hammer and nail at the start of
his project, Michael Pollan was somewhat apprehensive about
his sudden compulsion to build himself a treehouse library in the
woods up the hill from his home. We can see what the studio did
for his work: The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma,
two of his more well-known works, were written after its construction.
He soon realizes that this notion of his is a bit romantic, especially
as he doesn’t quite know how to hold a level, but like most of us
who have made anything, he perseveres, with the chisel, the saw,
and the sander. He learns that the joy of building is somewhere
between plumb and clumsy thumbs, and the compromise between
the ideal and the actuality of craftsmanship may mean your treehouse is out of square, but that’s OK.
As Winston Churchill said, “First we shape our buildings, and
thereafter our buildings shape us.” There is much to be said for
the amount of deliberation required for building a structure; would
that our own makings take on the same weightiness.
194 Make: Volume 13