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.””