"Q&A With Ian Frisch"
Book: Magic Is Dead
Author: Ian Frisch
"I am a freelance journalist currently living in Brooklyn. I normally write long-form narrative and investigative features.
My first book, MAGIC IS DEAD: My Journey Into the World's Most Secretive Society of Magicians, is now available from Dey Street Books.
My VICE Sports feature "Breaking Kayfabe: An Inside Look at WWE's Unlikely Business Empire" was shortlisted for the 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Explanatory Award.
I also make occasional appearances on Bloomberg Television.
I have written for: The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Playboy, WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, Longreads, Rolling Stone, VICE Sports, Broadly, Victory Journal, Vocativ, Extra Crispy, Latterly Magazine, The Daily Beast, Refinery29, Entrepreneur, Mashable, and Bedford + Bowery.
I also speak regularly at universities both about writing and entrepreneurship." (Source:www.ianfrisch.com)
1. How has your perception of magic changed since writing your book “Magic Is Dead”?
I knew all along that magic was in the midst of a revolution. As my reporting for the book continued, I saw this change intensify, and I can see it even more now that the book is out; since readers are resonating with the story so strongly. I feel like magic will continue to progress, and since the craft is part of my life now, I guess I have contributed to its progression in some way.
2. In your experience, do you think magic changes from culture to culture or when you’re in different countries?
Yes, definitely. Magicians and their performances are large vessels for how the world is operating in the presenting. They reflect the cultural zeitgeist, and this can be country by country or region by region. If you go to England or Italy, or Spain, or Japan, you are going to get a different take on magic, which is fueled by that magician's own culture, and what their audiences want to see from them.
3. After going along your literary journey, would you say that magic is more closely related to witchcraft and wizardry or art?
Art—100 percent! This is a craft that people have dedicated their lives to, and, beyond that, it's something that has blossomed into a universal language. The aspect of wonder that makes magic come alive isn't something that you can find in witchcraft or wizardry; magic's main purpose is to make someone feel something they can't feel anywhere else.
4. Now that you’ve infiltrated the most secret society of young magicians and are sharing the stories, why don’t magicians share their tricks?
They do, actually—but for the right reasons. You can go online and see myriad tutorials on how to do basic tricks or sleight of hand moves. And that's one of the reasons why magic is coming back so strongly into mainstream culture: The tools are out there for people to learn and become enchanted with this craft.
5. Who’s a magician that you looked up to before 'the52' and who is a magician that you admire now?
I had no idea that any of the magicians in my book existed before I started this journey, so I was only a very top-level consumer of magic. I really loved David Blaine's stripped-down approach to magic growing up, but he was my only touchpoint for what magic had to offer. But now, after I've seen the entire subculture from the inside, I would say that Doug McKenzie is someone that I truly admire. His innovative approach to performance is truly masterful.
This is a tough one! I think Blaine really modernized the craft in a new way when he came onto the scene in the late 1990s—he made magic more simple and accessible and ushered in a whole new generation of performers—but Devant is someone who truly revolutionized the artform from the outset. We wouldn't be where we are today without either of these guys. Can we call it a tie?
7. In your opinion, when did magic die?
I don't think it ever really died, but I do think that magic's progression is an ouroboros in a way; it has to keep growing and progressing or else it will eat itself alive. Magic is only as good as how much better it is than the last trick you've seen, so I think that's a major hurdle in keeping magic from death. It has to be continuously progressed and innovative to stay relevant.
8. How competitive is the magic world?
Very! And dramatic. Haha. There's a lot of one-upmanship in this world, but that competition can be healthy in some respects. It keeps everyone on their toes and wanting to keep the craft moving forward.
9. Have you received any pushback for writing about such a sensitive topic?
Yes. Some people don't like the things I've revealed, or bristle at my opinions of where magic is heading. But that's par for the course in a subculture like this.
10. How much has social media changed the direction of magic?
To me, social media is the number one catalyst for change in magic in the last 20 years. For an art form originally built like a monarchy, social media has allowed any magician to have a voice, to garner visibility, and to build a personal brand. It's much more like democracy now. Magicians are free to do as they please through these platforms, and I think that's a marvelous thing.
11. Since you’re familiar with how the world of magic creates illusions to fascinate their audience, what do you believe is the biggest illusion that exists in the world today? Positive or negative.
Do you really want me to get ultra-meta with you? Haha. I think the concept of choice is an illusion that society projects onto its citizens. Many people will live a life that they were born into; it's the same thing in a magic trick.
When you approach a magician, you're always one step behind. And in some ways, you know it, but you keep going. Is that the same structure for many people's live writ-large? Perhaps. And is that positive or negative? It depends on your perspective.
12. What is your best advice to a struggling aspiring author currently working on their first novel?
Never. Stop. Writing. Find a captivating idea and never stop. That's how this whole thing started for me. I was curious about magic, and young magicians, and just kept with it until it blossomed into an idea that could become a book.
The concept of giving up will ruin any author, especially in the early stages. Nothing comes easy when you're starting out, and it takes determination, skill, and a bit of luck to pull it off. But giving up will produce something more awful than failure: Regret.
13. What’s the best book you have read on magic?
The Phantom at the Card Table by David Britland. Just awesome!
14. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
I normally take a lot of me-time if I am getting stuck. If I can let my mind wander a bit, I can usually find a jolt of inspiration. I love to take walks, read, and exercise. That lets my body and mind relax, so when I sit back down to write, I am fully in the zone and I can push forward.
15. Do you plan on writing any more books in the future?
Yes! I'm already cooking up some new ideas as we speak. ;)
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