I’m not sure I believe in magic. I know! What a thing to say! A lifetime reader of fantasy, science fiction, a long time watcher of every scifi/fantasy movie or TV show, it’s a wowzer of a statement.
I’ve been thinking a lot about magic lately, there are so many children’s books that are big sellers with a touch or a basis in the weirdly paranormal, the wildly fantastical and the amazingly scientific. Magic, duh! I know I shouldn’t say it. But, still! Sigh. I read everything as a kid, from John Carter on Mars, to the Brothers Karamazov, to the Tales of Ivanhoe, followed up by Nancy Drew. It was the human story that amazed me, that people could be there, in that place, living that life. It wasn’t the magic.
In the late 60’s we had a family friend, John Hallford. My first southern gentleman, a courtly man, much like my dad, but with a flair–he was a member of the International Society of Magicians, the headquarters were the Magic Castle in the Hollywood Hills, below the big sign and Yamashiro Sky Room. John and Bernice, his second wife, would call me up and we’d go to the Castle for dinner or just for drinks and a show. In those days, you had to be a member to get in.
Parking was behind the castle, you walked to a massive wooden door that would creak, a little like Inner Sanctum, and inside would be a library, a librarian desk and no door. You would offer your name and reservation and wait until a sufficient number of people moved into the library and then the outer door would slowly close and you would be invited through a hidden door as the bookshelf would move off to the side. Inside was a dim, warm inviting bar. At one end of the bar was a stool that, for the uninitiated, slowly dropped until your chin was even with the bar top. A piano played solo, as in all by itself. There were small rooms, alcoves, niches; private, concealing, hideouts really, where small tricks and magic was practiced and discussed. Up stairs, in the dining room was a groaning board, twelve feet long, full of salads, fruits, vegetables, meats and all forms of desert. There were never crowds, especially as we usually went on a week night. Magicians from all over the world came to the Castle, to perform, to chat, to be seen by peers. The theaters, mostly in the basement, where the performances took place, were small, intimate, velvet curtains covering a tiny stage with footlights that separated the magician from the audience of maybe twenty, twenty five people. One night a young man from Budapest performed, it was astounding, he was from behind the Iron Curtain, a novelty in itself. And he was quite dashing. A mop of curly black hair, a bleach white dress shirt and tie, and a Mary’s Mantle blue tuxedo. He performed with sliver balls, his pale long fingered hands moving over, under and around, making the shiny orbs disappear and then reappear. I sat, mesmerized, just five feet from where he performed. It never occurred to me to figure out how he did it.
Although my sisters mocked my acceptance of his trick without wondering how, I was quite happy to give him his due. He did the performance so well it was riveting, besides, did I mention he was handsome, adorable, wow? The fact is, magic may exist–– who am I to say? We could use more of our brains than what we now use. And that old saw “magic is just science we don’t understand yet” is probably more than true.
I’ve read there are really only ten true stories from the depth of our ancient primal myths, surely they have all been written more than once. The magic is that people continue to write, to make variations on the same stories, and create a pantheon of remarkable literary characters [or not so literary–––maybe imaginary characters is a better word]. Magic is the ability to make a reader suspend disbelief, to care about the plight of the main character, to feel with that character the solution to the problem and then to be in wonder at the end.
wonder |ˈwəndər| noun; a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. Yep, that is magic!