The Memory Arts is a book I might never have picked up, had it not been on my magic review list. But I’m very glad I did. And very glad that I waited until the beginning of January to do so. As I will explain in the review that follows…
What is it?
The Memory Arts is a beautifully produced (Vanishing Inc do produce nice magic books!) book which is all about how to develop a memory technique with specific reference to helping magicians memorise a deck of playing cards – though its applications are much broader.
The technique is based around the ancient technique of Mnemonics. It builds on a variety of ancient and more recent wisdom and packages it all in a highly accessible way. After a fascinating discussion of the history of this kind of technique, the book is straight in to a system of remembering 26 locations in a ‘Memory Palace’.
Memory Arts or Science?
This is facilitated by a unique drawing for each location alongside text to help you fix the image in your mind. In fact the use of illustration is a significant part of this book. You’re trying to remember images and pictures – which really helps the process. This view of the side of the book will give you a clue about how many pictures there are – the darker pages are all ones where the majority of the page is taken up with a picture.
After learning the 26 ‘locations’ there is a section on how you can turn any playing card into a memorable image. The next step is combing the card image with its location image.
The good, the bad, and the not so obvious…
The book has clearly been written with magicians in mind as the primary audience – so once the elements have been taught there are sections working the whole thing out for both the Aronson and the Mnemonica stack. The principles taught could be adapted for any stack you work with, but these are probably a good call as the most well known stacks used by magicians. (Although the Redford stack, and Woody Aragon’s Memorandum which builds on Mnemonica, are well worth a look in my opinion).
There are a few sections thinking about how you can use the technique in different ways – and I for one might well try it just to memorise the Kings of England in order, since that’s something I’ve always wanted to know!
The Memory Arts is well written, brilliantly illustrated and makes me believe that I could actually manage to memorise a deck – something I’ve always wanted to be able to do. That is why the timing is significant for me – it feels like a great New Year’s Resolution. And I currently believe I will be able to get this nailed within a few weeks or not much more. In fact, I have made an agreement with my 8-year old daughter and we’re both going to try to memorise it together! I’ll give you an update in a few weeks!
That takes me to what is probably my only minor criticism of the book. One or two of the images are not as immediately accessible as the others. For example one of the pictures includes a winch. My daughter had no idea what a winch is! Similarly there are one or two which have cultural connections or references which might not work for every reader. This is a tiny point – but worth mentioning. Of course, you can always come up with your own images. But half of the value of the book is that the images have already been done for you…
All in all, this is a great book, which comes highly recommended for anyone who would like to use their memory better. As I’ve said, it is well aimed at the magician who wants to learn a specific stack, but could also help memorise all kinds of other information easily.
You can pick up a copy of The Memory Arts from Merchant of Magic for only £37.50 (at the time of writing).
You can also purchase ebook editions for the specific stacks for £19.50 – but I’d always prefer a real book!
Review copy kindly provided by Murphys Magic to whom dealer enquiries should be directed.
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