Memorandum is a big book (not too far off 400 pages) which covers dozens of effects and ideas and concepts with Woody’s memorized deck (hereafter mem deck). So this Memorandum review can only begin to scrape the surface of the book – and my aim is to give you enough information to decide whether or not the book is worth your investment of time and money.
Woody (or his translators) write well in a very conversational style which makes the book a joy to read. He is a real enthusiast and that enthusiasm is infectious as a reader. However, don’t expect to sit down and read this book in a sitting. This is a book which will repay careful study over time.
I am increasingly convinced that mem deck magic is amongst the most fooling that you can perform – and there is also some satisfaction in the brute achievement of having memorized a whole deck! But beware. Although a few routines in this book will work without having put in the hard work of memorization, this is a serious work for serious magicians who are prepared to invest time and effort for their art.
Before I forget
Woody is very well read and I really appreciate the way he carefully attributes inspirations and techniques in the different routines. In any field of magic we are all standing on the shoulders of giants, but nowhere is this more true than for the mem deck. Juan Tamariz is clearly a huge influence on Woody Aragon and Woody himself encourages you to buy and familiarise yourself with Juan’s magnum opus – Mnemonica – if you really want to appreciate some of the subtleties and techniques which really make mem deck work fly. He also refers to Simon Aronson’s collection Bound to Please as another invaluable resource.
The first thing the book covers is the development of Woody’s stack. A LOT of thought has gone into this. The book is the result of years of study, experimentation and performance. And this is very reassuring – if you’re going to make the investment of time to learn the stack you want the reassurance that the material actually works!
As well as being a joy to read, throughout the book amusing illustrations help you to learn the stack pictorially – although they do not (if I have counted correctly) cover all of them. Perhaps they will be finished in the project volume 2! Plenty of other line and photographic illustrations make sure everything you need to understand is very clear.
Another early chapter describes the method (he calls it a game!) he uses to teach the stack to classes. If you’re familiar with memory techniques, there’s probably nothing new here – but it is a helpful summary nonetheless. He also gives some tips to help revise stack etc.
A plethora of effects
He starts by teaching tricks which don’t require the stack to be memorized – simply to be in order – as a way to help you learn the stack. He then moves on to the idea of the half stack – an incredibly powerful idea. It is easier to learn than the full stack – and the first half of Aragon’s stack has all sorts of clever attributes which open up many strong effects. These include spelling effects, gambling effects, weighing the cards, matching the cards etc.
There are then plenty more effects using the full stack – including more poker effects, some very clever prediction and ‘fishing techniques’ and other more original ideas.
He has a section on effects which aren’t dependent on the stack you use – so even if you already use a different stack there are ideas here for you. And in another chapter he specifically explores how to move between the Memorandum stack and the Tamariz or Aronson stacks. Unless you are a very competent handler of cards (and audiences) I would suggest this might be overkill – though if you have a particular favourite tricks you perform with different stacks I can see why you might want to do this.
For me, one of the most brilliant and exciting concepts in the book is the Siamese deck. I don’t want to give away the details here – but to my mind it opens up some amazing possibilities. I would like to devote some time thinking this principle through in relation to non-memorized deck work too since I think there is a lot of scope with this idea.
In addition to teaching the effects he also teaches how to reset the deck (and some intriguing rules about ‘undoing’ the effect of dealing various hands of poker etc.) – there is something verging on the fanatical in the depth of understanding he has of the mechanics of both his deck and the effect of various shuffles and combinations on a deck order.
There is also a chapter covering some false shuffles and cuts and the explanation of a clever little device you can make yourself with fairly simple craft skills which will help you to switch half a deck for another.
So who is this book for?
Potentially several different people. If you are already a user of mem deck material, then this book is well worth a look. Even if you don’t want to learn a new stack, there are ideas for routines and techniques which you may be able to develop or add to your existing stack and effects.
If you’ve not yet memorised a deck then Woody’s stack would be well worth the investment of time. You may wish to consult some of the other standard works referenced above in order to gain more ideas and techniques, but the Memorandum stack itself is a very powerful tool all on its own. And the book covers all you need to know to get started.
You may never want to memorise a deck but simply (like me) enjoy reading widely in magic to broaden your repertoire of techniques and influences. If that’s you, there is much to commend about this book. As I have mentioned, it has opened up a load of ideas and possibilities in my mind – if I ever get round to spending some more time on them. (To that end, it would also be worth looking at this book in relation to the Marksman Deck we reviewed recently.)
In fact, Memorandum would be well worth a read for anyone who shares my passion for good quality card magic. Don’t bother if you’re a hobbyist who just wants to perform tricks which require no effort, but if you’re prepared to make an investment in your art, then this comes highly recommended.
You can pick up a copy of Memorandum from magicshop.co.uk for £46.50 (at the time of writing)
Review copy kindly provided by Murphys Magic to whom dealer enquiries should be directed.
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