If you haven’t heard, Derren has a new book out called “Confessions Of A Conjuror”. Here’s a recent review from the Sunday Times:
(Follow the link at the bottom to get a sneak peak inside the book).
“”What a trick! You might think from the title that Derren Brown â€” the goateed illusionist nobody wants to play at poker â€” had written a bog-standard celebrity memoir. But look closer. What do you see? Not an autobiography at all, but a weird, whimsical and, at times, uproarious deconstruction of the celebrity-memoir genre. Whether at his writing desk or in front of the camera, it seems Brown is happiest when leading his audience a merry dance.
Confessions of a Conjuror is a description of one night in a Bristol restaurant. Brown is in his twenties, a â€œjobbing magicianâ€¦a few years before a lucky phone call brought me a TV break and a move away from that green city of artists and therapists and tramps to a grey metropolis of actors and â€¨wankers and hedge-fund tradersâ€.
In the first chapter, he is looking for a group of diners to dazzle. By the end of the memoir he is still in that same room, having astonished a table of punters with a series of card tricks. During his account of one nightâ€™s work, Brown details how the cut of a manâ€™s shirt, or a certain smell, set off a chain of thoughts. From these observations, he delves into his past life, future career, his methods, beliefs, sexuality, the wisdom of Aristophanes, and, for more than three pages, the perfect way to poach eggs.
So what do we learn about Brown from this jumble sale? For one thing, he is a self-confessed obsessive. Indeed, his tendencies manifest themselves in his overwrought, Victorian prose, which is laden with fetishistic detail. His description of why he prefers red-backed cards to blue-backed is an example. Having told us blue ones â€œcontrast less satisfyingly with the green baize of a card table or the jet black of the suit I woreâ€, he tells us how red cards have a certain â€œnew-world pizzazzâ€. Anyway, blue reminds him of school â€” it was the â€œprescribed ink colourâ€¦and I cannot use it to this day without feeling in my gut that I am again a student and should be handing in my work for markingâ€.
Much of the book freewheels in this way. One has to be on the look-out for biographical gems that might drift past on a two-page footnote. Occasionally, a moving nugget catches the eye. For instance, he offers two explanations for his interest in magic. The first involves a number of items with which he became fascinated as a child (a magic hat given to him at Christmas, a hidden compartment in an After Eight box), but the second, psychological explanation seems more convincing. Brown was an only child until he was nine; as a â€œprecocious, sensitiveâ€ and un-sporty boy at school, he was teased for being part of the â€œpoof gangâ€, but adapted, in his late teens, into a showman and comedian. Now, as a gay man who has confirmed that â€œfor those still in any doubt that, given the choice, I was a stickler for man-on-man actionâ€, he seems happy in his own skin. It was not always the case. His â€œlack of relationships during and after university (a means of avoiding the awkward confusion of whether I should happily accept the whoopsie within or wait for him to somehow pass) frees up huge amounts of creative energy to spend practicing card-sleights and developing tricksâ€.
Ah, magic. There is some method given away here, but not much. Mostly, Brown provides an insight into how malleable and suggestible the average punter is. The magicianâ€™s skill is to make the audience focus on unimportant things, to allow their brains to make connections that are not there. For that reason, he says, magic is all context. â€œIn the best performances, the trick itself is often not the primary pleasure,â€ he writes. â€œThe finest pieces soar not necessarily because they are the most bamboozling, but because they are performed by an utterly captivating character, or imbued with a theatrical sensibilityâ€¦an experience of genuine drama, fun or enchantment.â€
â€œMagic,â€ he also admits, â€œmeans nothing.â€ For Brown, this is not a cause for despondency. His punters experience â€œsurprise and delightâ€, and the â€œtrivial nature of the variables is irrelevantâ€. And that, it seems, is the message of this strange, postmodern book. Brown elevates seemingly insignificant moments in his life and imbues them with drama. â€œTo really know someone,â€ he suggests, is to â€œgently trace their dreamy associationsâ€. He may be right. In Confessions of a Conjuror, Brown takes us on a meandering pleasure cruise downriver. It is worth the journey.””
What campaign stunt would you pull in an election?
The few proper ‘stunts’ I’ve done have been pretty gruelling and I have done them more out of obligation than any desire for mass attention. So I’d want to do something that drew no attention to myself, which is one reason why I’d be a useless politician and would hate every second of it.
Would you take part in a TV leaders debate?
Happily. I’d quite enjoy it. Though I’ve never managed to pull off the politicians’ trick of thinking that my view is the single, correct one, so I’d be pretty hopeless.
Who would write your speeches?
I’d have to write them myself. That would be one small personal pleasure I’d get from the job.
How would you redecorate No 10?
I’m thinking something like the Addams Family mansion. And I’d swap the policeman at the door for a guy with a hunchback.
Who would be your Alastair Campbell?
Don’t know. I’d have to have Stephen Fry in there somewhere.
Who would be your George Osborne?
Gordon Brown. I might as well have someone who knows what he’s doing. I’m hopeless with money. I’d spend it all on presents and dinners.
Who would be in your cabinet?
All of the X-Men.
Where would you hold cabinet meetings?
Patrick Stewart’s place – convenient.
How would you respond to being booed in public?
I’d respond by sobbing and getting very defensive.
How would you deal with a sex scandal in the cabinet?
With a huge party. It sounds very exciting.
What would you have as a new national anthem?
I think something instrumental. Or John Cage’s 4’33”.
How would you greet the Queen?
By grinning inanely and talking bollocks, which is generally what I do when meeting people of great authority.
Would you make Scotland independent?
It would be rude not to if that was what Scotland wanted.
What would keep you awake at night?
Half the country hating me.
What would you miss most while in No 10?
That level of fame would be miserable. So I’d miss the D-list status I currently enjoy.
Which pets would you get for No 10?
Lions and tigers. It would be amazing.
How would you see off a younger, better-looking political rival?
I’d make his head explode. Or if he was a lot younger and a lot better-looking, I might consistently flirt with him until he was forced to give up politics.
How would you increase participation in politics?
Who would succeed you as PM?
Someone who was the polar opposite of me. That seems to be the usual pattern – a swing from charismatic to boring and back again.
What legacy would you like to leave?
I think it would be best for everyone to forget about it as soon as possible.
Channel 4 have put together a rather random little website. Featuring some of the well known stars like Gordon Ramsey, Alan Carr, Jamie Oliver and of course Derren this little tool helps you construct twisted sentences with their words. The best ones will be shown on TV, so give it a go and see if you can put words in to the mouths of celebs – or just do what we do and try to make rude innuendoes.
Subject to all sorts of possible changes, the following goodies (or baddies, really depends) are planned: the ‘Enigma‘ show should be broadcast (in it’s 3-hours-squeezed-into-one-and-a-half form) around mid-December, and hopefully in early January, a documentary about my good self will air for those who enjoy such things, alongside a broadcast of the most-voted-for-fave-special (you can vote, I am assured, here). My oldest pal from school (now a multi-award-winning filmmaker) was approached, quite by coincidence, to make the documentary, and it’s deepened our friendship and been a real joy exploring some nostalgic avenues together.
Also, in January, I’m quite excited that they’re planning to release a box-set of the stage shows (at least the ones that made it to TV). So Something Wicked, And Evening of Wonders, and Enigma will be all nicely packaged up for your DVD delectation. Imagine! What larks.
As you may know, I’m writing the new stage show, Svengali: the long and short of it is that we rehearse next January/FebÂ for the tour that starts in March. And somewhere in there we hope to film a new special, though when that will make the screens I have no idea.
Um, that’s it for now. Today I’m drinking tea and painting Patrick Hughes and I’ll show you that and the little story around it when it’s done.