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Topic: Thirteen Steps to Mentalism (Corinda)
Message: Posted by: Neophyte (Jul 30, 2004 04:23AM)
I’ve done a search, and can’t find a review of this book. I’ve also read through several posts here and, though it’s suggested that this is a review area for books, most of the posts I’ve read don’t seem to fall into that category. If I’ve misunderstood something, I apologise. (If this review needs to be moved elsewhere, whoever is responsible, please go ahead.)

It’s a long review. You may want to go and grab a cup of coffee. Hope it’s of some use. (The review – not the coffee. Of course, I hope you enjoy it. The coffee. And the review. OK, I’ll stop – this is getting silly! :))

[b]Title[/b]: Thirteen Steps to Mentalism by Tony Corinda

[b]Type[/b]: Book (mentalism) 420pp

[b]Price/availability[/b]: Depends where you are in the world!

First published in 1968, this work, not surprisingly, has an old-fashioned feel to it. And I speak as someone who was rattling along to the Rolling Stones back then. (Well, them and Leapy Lee.) The book has a useful index, but could, I feel, benefit from a complete contents list. Each section of the book does, of course, have its own series of subject headings, but unless you know which page ‘Two Person Telepathy’ begins on, for example, you need to go to the Index, or else thumb through until you hit lucky.

Corinda’s work is divided (not surprisingly) into thirteen sections, or ‘Steps’, namely:

[b]1[/b] The ‘Swami Gimmick’
[b]2[/b] Pencil, Lip, Sound, Touch and Muscle Reading
[b]3[/b] Mnemonics and Mental Systems
[b]4[/b] Predictions
[b]5[/b] Blindfolds and X-rays
[b]6[/b] Billets
[b]7[/b] Book Tests and Fogel Interview
[b]8[/b] Two Person Telepathy
[b]9[/b] Mediumistic Stunts
[b]10[/b] Card Tricks
[b]11[/b] Question and Answer (Readings)
[b]12[/b] Publicity Stunts
[b]13[/b] Patter and Presentation

[b]1 The ‘Swami Gimmick’[/b]
This section is split into three self-explanatory subsections, namely ‘Types’, ‘Technique’ and ‘Tricks’. Obviously, there have been some advances/changes in the use of this gimmick since Corinda’s day, but the principles remain the same. The author offers guidance on the varieties of Swami available, how to handle the gimmick, what type of card to write on etc. He also suggests some 24 effects that make use of the gimmick. All in all, a very ‘handy’ introduction.

[b]2 Pencil, Lip, Sound, Touch and Muscle Reading[/b]
As you might have guessed, this section is divided into five separate areas. Corinda analyses each technique, then offers a broad range of advice: when to attempt the method, how to position yourself, favourable and unfavourable conditions - concluding the chapter with a good selection of effects that can be performed once these abilities have been acquired. They are not, of course, easy skills to master. Corinda himself acknowledges that - to take pencil reading as an example - the average mentalist steers clear of such things because ‘it is hard work’ and the results are ‘known to be uncertain’. But he’s nothing if not keen, and believes that if you apply yourself diligently, you can make great strides in this area. (And let’s face it, Derren Brown must have started somewhere!)

[b]3 Mnemonics and Mental Systems[/b]
One of my favourite sections. As I’ve remarked in other posts, I have found that a mastery of mnemonics and memory systems can open up a rich seam of effects. As Corinda himself observes, ‘To the Mentalist, Memory Systems are indispensable’. Here, he touches on the history of memory systems, from those employed by the ancient Greeks, through to the practitioners and methods of the twentieth century - Al Baker, the Nikola system etc.

He provides a basic introduction to memory systems which, while excellent, provides the aspiring mentalist with a secure grounding rather than an end product. There are, of course, many useful works on memory enhancement, and I won’t attempt to list them here. But if you’re serious about this subject, I can recommend the works of Tony Buzan and Jonathan Hancock. Harry Lorraine is another name that springs to mind. Skirting quickly through this section, Corinda covers Magic Squares, date systems (ie methods to calculate the day of the week of any given date and year), intriguing chess effects, and card stacks/arrangements. All in all, a wealth of information which, with hard work and application, will serve the mentalist well.

[b]4 Predictions[/b]
As the author remarks, ‘Predictions are one of the strongest forms of Mental Magic’. To this end, he discusses the various advantages of billets, indexes, forces, switches and envelopes. He then outlines several effects suitable both for the stage and the ‘drawing room’. (Hands up who’s got one of those?)

[b]5 Blindfolds and X-rays[/b]

Child: What’s a blindfold, Mummy?
Mother: Something you wear so that you cannot see.
Child: Why’s he [ie the mentalist] wearing one, Mummy?
Mother: So that he can tell us what he’s looking at.

With this charming snatch of dialogue, Corinda introduces us to the world of unfaked masks, silk, blanket and bag blindfolds. Stacked, marked and one-way decks are employed to good effect, as are memory systems. The section concludes with a plethora of effective stunts.

[b]6 Billets[/b]
Regarded by some as ‘old hat’, and, at first glance, ostensibly abandoned by ‘modern’ practitioners such as Derren Brown, billet work remains a fundamental mentalist technique. Corinda himself remarks, ‘It would be fair to say that we are dealing with the most important [i]principle[/i] of Mental Magic’.

He has, he insists, ‘met nothing yet which will replace my esteem for the Centre Tear’, before proceeding to thoroughly examine this billet technique. He offers advice on handling, method, and misdirection, before describing several ‘tricks and routines’ which make use of the technique. Though this area has been much analysed and improved upon in recent years, it nonetheless provides both an invaluable starting-point for the beginner, as well as much useful information for the more experienced magician. There are, of course, many books and videos now available which will expand your knowledge further. (Again, though I speak with limited experience, I would recommend both Bob Cassidy’s tape, [i]Mental Miracles[/i] and Lee Earle’s [i]Center Tear Teach-In[/i] as useful additions to any ‘billet’ library.)

[b]7 Book Tests and Fogel Interview[/b]
Where would the mentalist be without his book test? Here, Corinda takes us through various methods, some easier to master than others. The use of magazines, cards, dice and slates is covered. As elsewhere, don’t expect to be presented with simple effects that can be learnt and employed in the same evening. What you will acquire is a knowledge of principles and approaches, some of which you may happily embrace, others from which you may, for whatever reason, run a mile. This section concludes with a marvellously old-fashioned chat with the British mentalist, Maurice Fogel (1911-1981). Each addresses the other by his surname, and they enjoy at least two cups of tea during the course of the talk. Towards the end, Corinda jokingly suggests that he himself is a genuine medium. ‘At this point’, he informs us, ‘Mr Fogel came out with some quaint old English phrases which might not look so good in print’. All in all, a very pleasant - and informative - interlude.

[b]8 Two Person Telepathy[/b]
Corinda describes this section of his book as ‘one of the major subjects in the series’. As someone who prefers to work alone, I found this step interesting, but not necessarily useful. That’s no criticism of the work, simply an admission that this is not an area I’m likely to ever become involved in. (Let’s face it, performing on my own is difficult enough.) But for those who prefer to work in teams, this is an excellent introduction to the subject. Corinda outlines the various codes and methods which can be employed: coins, colours, alphabets, numbers etc. It’s a long list, which I won’t try to replicate here. Suffice to say that, yet again, he provides a plethora of methods and principles which can’t fail to be of use and/or inspire. His advice is practical, familiar and succinct: ‘Learn a little at a time… Let your motto be: Practise, practise, then entertain’. And what area of magic does that not apply to?

[b]9 Mediumistic Stunts[/b]
In this step, we venture into what Corinda describes as the complex world of ‘paranormal development’. Again, this may not be to everyone’s taste, but, as always, he provides a fascinating insight into one of the so-called ‘Allied Arts’ of mentalism. He reminds us how important it is to establish the right atmosphere, and to use the appropriate patter. As he bluntly warns his readers, ‘There are thousands of books on this subject and most of them will tie you up in knots!’ But he suggests some useful reading nonetheless. The chapter concludes with various ‘spirit-reading’ stunts, ranging from the physical to the mental - messages written in the air to Ouija Board and slate effects.

[b]10 Card Tricks[/b]
This topic will be of greater interest to many people here, I suspect, and yet, as Corinda himself admits, ‘it has been argued by my friends and colleagues that there is no place for card tricks in the Thirteen Steps to Mentalism’. Corinda, however, disagrees, insisting that ‘I firmly believe that it does not matter what you use for a mental effect as long as you use it correctly’. He then offers useful advice on presentation and patter, before suggesting several practical effects which make use of ESP, alphabet and playing cards - and that’s just for starters.

[b]11 Question and Answer (Readings)[/b]
This is a fruitful technique for the accomplished mentalist, but it does require great skill and confidence to pull it off. Corinda approaches his subject from every angle - the use of inference, prior knowledge, gimmicks etc. He outlines his approach to private and platform work and offers various cold reading tips. Serious students will wish to look further - to the work of Lee Earle and Ian Rowland, for example - but as a starting-point, this is an excellent introduction to a difficult area.

[b]12 Publicity Stunts[/b]
As Corinda admits straight off, ‘This Step does not deal so much with tricks and technique … it confines itself to Publicity’. This is an area to which, Corinda argues, entertainers simply don’t pay enough attention. He then offers his advice, which covers such time-honoured methods as the use of business cards, headed paper and, of course, publicity stunts. ‘Sit in a box over the Thames for a couple of months,’ he suggests, ‘that always works for me’. No, I’m joking. But this is heavy stuff and we need a moment’s light relief. And possibly a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive. (Fogel would have approved!)

[b]13 Patter and Presentation[/b]

And finally…

‘About time, too’, I hear you complain. ‘We might as well have bought the book, it wouldn’t have taken us as long to read…’

Corinda concludes with an analysis of what he regards as the essentials of a good performance, personal appearance, speech, misdirection and so on. This is a useful and practical chapter. He then rounds off the book with another interview, this time speaking to Claude Chandler, the then vice-president of the London Magic Circle, who imparts his own, interesting advice on presentation.

Don’t rush out and buy [i]Thirteen Steps[/i] under the impression that (a) it’ll be an easy read, and/or (b) it will turn you into a mentalist/Derren Brown’s younger/older brother overnight. This book is a superb introduction to the subject, but if I can indulge myself in a spot of imagery for a moment -- sprinting up the hill at the back of your house may convince you that you’re a fit man, but just try strolling up Everest without an oxygen tank and you may get a different perspective on your state of health.

This book is the key to your car, but you still need a working engine, full set of tyres and - yes, fair enough, that’s enough poetic licence.

[i]Thirteen Steps[/i] contains a wealth of information, some of which you can use immediately, but much of which you may store away and either never use at all, or only appreciate the full significance of some time later. Fair enough, I’m speaking for myself now. Some of you may hate it, some love it, some wonder why on earth I was making it sound so difficult.

What it is not, is a book of tricks. It’s the first step (followed by twelve more) on a long journey. If you buy it, and learn from it, then good luck. If you’re serious about mentalism, one thing you won’t do is regret adding it to your library.

One of the unexpected benefits that’s come to me through writing this review, is that it’s forced me to reacquaint myself with large tracts of [i]Steps[/i], and look at things afresh. There was much that I had missed the first time round: advice, too, that means more to me now that I’ve gained a little experience. I doubt you can ever read this book for the last time - there will always be something useful lurking in the shadows that you haven’t spotted before. Or maybe I’m just a slow and unobservant reader!

I leave you with Corinda’s closing advice on presentation, which, wherever our interests lie - is well worth remembering:

‘Conduct your performance as a man with an orchestra to care for and the result will be entertaining -- and that is all that matters unless you seek to be a mentalist because it pleases your vanity’.

Hope this has helped. It’s not always easy to be objective, and we all look at things in different ways. I’m sure other viewpoints would be very helpful to all concerned.

If you’re still with me, thanks for reading this far!

Message: Posted by: DJP (Jul 30, 2004 08:40AM)
Well I think we should thank James for his review.

Very informative!

Message: Posted by: Rennie (Jul 30, 2004 08:47AM)
My hats off to you, you did an excellent review of an excellent book and if you would like I would actually appreciate reading more of your reviews.Again great job and hope to see more than 4 posts from you.
Message: Posted by: mattisdx (Jul 30, 2004 11:17AM)
Nice review buddy :D I was looking for this one a few days ago, thanks ! :crazydude:
Message: Posted by: ALEXANDRE (Jul 30, 2004 11:26AM)
You've done a great service as many people who don't have this book, should get it, and perhaps your review will inspire them.
Message: Posted by: shomemagic (Jul 30, 2004 11:53AM)
If you have even a mild interest in mentalism this is a must have book for your library!
Message: Posted by: bofx (Jul 31, 2004 07:27AM)
Nice review.
Message: Posted by: Neophyte (Jul 31, 2004 08:58AM)
Thank you to everyone who's posted a response. You're very kind, and I appreciate it.

I'll certainly be happy to review other books etc that I own if they haven't already been covered.

All the best,

Message: Posted by: atrudo (Aug 19, 2004 01:50PM)
Great review. After being endorsed by nearly every pro, this book is really THE book on mentalism to get.
Message: Posted by: J.A.Crosman (Aug 21, 2004 09:47PM)
Great review James.
I bought this book a week ago.
Still on step 2. Working with the different readings. I am ordering the boon nail writer in a while.
I love this book. Corinda goes into great detail and nothing is unexplained.
Message: Posted by: Aron Devin (Aug 21, 2004 10:19PM)
Besides Annemann's "Practical Mental Effects" Corinda's book is a close to the main text for mentalism as possible. I loved the review James. Now I'll go back and read the stuff I should have been paying more attention to the first time through it. Thanks again.
Message: Posted by: teejay (Sep 19, 2004 10:50AM)
Nice work, James
Message: Posted by: tuffnavyrn (Sep 20, 2004 06:31AM)
Awesome review/write-up and would like to see more of that in the future. I've owned this text for quite some time now and it's a must for anyone in mentalism or for anyone who even thinks they want to explore this aspect of performance....it truly is the mentalists bible.
Message: Posted by: The Magician (Sep 21, 2004 04:11PM)
I was thinking of getting this book and after reading this superb review I think I will purchase it right away.
Message: Posted by: stevesmagic (Nov 13, 2004 06:57PM)
Magic books cost a fortune, more than any type of book (usually) this is the exception, over 400 pages of 'secrets'.
Why do other books have to charge extortionate prices when we can buy this classic at such a reasonable price
Message: Posted by: Mark R. Williams (Nov 14, 2004 12:28PM)
Great Review!! It has made me pick out the book from off my shelves again for a good dust off!
Message: Posted by: budzy (Nov 15, 2004 02:00PM)
Is this still in print
Message: Posted by: Roth (Nov 15, 2004 10:08PM)
Message: Posted by: SleepyMagic (May 29, 2016 11:03AM)
Is this taught in the book
Message: Posted by: Tim Cavendish (May 29, 2016 01:27PM)
[quote]On May 29, 2016, Sleepymentalism wrote:
Is this taught in the book
https://youtu.be/nJY1H7qnK1U [/quote]
Message: Posted by: CartoucheNL (Sep 10, 2019 05:03PM)
Thanks a lot for this review, but truthfully, a book like this does not really need one. If you are even remotely interested in mentalism, this book should be in your library and you should read it al least three times.
I recently acquired an original one: the original thirteen steps where the covers of the seperate lessons were taken off (but kept just in case) and handbound in a single volume. Something I'll treasure next to my umpteenth edition.
Message: Posted by: Rachmaninov (Sep 10, 2019 08:41PM)
I agree. Great book from which you can take some ideas to build great acts.