Friday, 10 September 2010

Round the Square

Magic squares have a reputation of being the least appealing form of magic because there is a mathematical principle seen to be involved. To be honest, when I have read ideas for magic squares the information given usually does live up to a promise of dullness. The problem tends to be a complete lack of regard for performance. The best card trick in the world becomes lack lustre when thought and preparation regarding performance is missing.

Al Smith’s book, Round the Square, focuses on the very need - the very aspect of how to incorporate a magic square into a performance. The end result is magic. It can be presented as mentalism, psychic phenomena, an experiment in superhuman mental agility or plain old magic. In some of the tricks, any aspect of calculation appears to be hindered or impossible on the part of the magician and yet the magician succeeds in bringing about a magical conclusion. Al Smith cleverly creates a situation where the audience believes that what has happened involves far more than any mere mathematical principle and calculation. And they would be right. We all know that if you choose any line of numbers in a magic square it will add up to the same number on that magic square. But how is it possible for the magician to predict, in an envelope sealed before the performance, what that number will be when it is a volunteer randomly choosing the numbers that will fill a grid to form a magic square? After all, how can a magician know what numbers will be chosen prior to the trick being performed?

The book does not simply list and describe tricks; it teaches the principles involved, step by step, before explaining tricks such as Origeightor which received a lot of attention back in 1992 when Al Smith published it in Abra and Paul Daniels adapted it for use in one of his television shows. After explaining Origeightor Smith improves on it and then goes through many of what are seen as the weaknesses of magic squares and provides easy, workable solutions to aid performance. If you want to add a different form of mental magic to your repertoire then Smith’s book is more than worth a look. It will inspire your own ideas and improvements. For those who are interested, details on how to buy a copy can be obtained by emailing

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