July 27th, 2011


When my fiancé was a young man, he found this book in a Salvation Army for $0.75. It had been recommended to him five years prior by his beloved high school English teacher. A Catholic school teacher recommends a book with sex, murder, and frequent, creative usage of the word fuck? Yes. Why? He didn’t think any of his kids would get their hands on it. Why not? It was hard to find. And in those days you could not order a book on the internet. But Justin found it and it eventually found its way to me.

Was this book critically acclaimed? A cult classic? A sleeper? I have no idea. I’ve resisted, day after day, the reflexive google twitch that accompanies curiosity these days. I want to look at MAGIC’s dusty, black, jacketless cover with its silver beveled title and wonder about it. That is what magic was back then; wondering about a book. I want to experience it for myself without being informed of its reception or background. That is what magic is to me.

The book is so, so good. I can’t get the mood of it out of my system, days after closing its crusty back cover. It’s about a man who wants to be loved, who wants public approval. As a child he seeks “everlasting health and strength” but fails at the football his father grooms him to play after his strong brother dies. Merlin the magician grooms him next, but his act bombs at an open mic magic show. He attempts suicide, but resurrects himself (or is resurrected, we wonder?) as a magician/ventriloquist, delivering a humorous routine with a dummy named Fats. The self-deprecating banter with Fats wins over audiences, yet Corky refuses to take the required health test to make it big with the help of an agent, The Postman. Is he hiding the fact that he’s insane, with Fats as his alter-ego? Or is Fats really alive?

I’ve created a triphopera of MAGIC in order to explore its characters and themes. Corky teaches me that it is impossible to win public love if that is our motivation for performance. Personal fulfillment, genuine self-confidence, and connection with those close to us give us a shot at happiness. Applause and accolades are elusive. The phrase within Merlin the magician’s advisory intro repeats throughout this piece: “If you do it right, they can’t love you enough.” This is a cautionary tale. “Love” of the faceless public is not fulfilling. That is helpful advice to me on the heels of being rejected from several jobs and a coveted teaching award.

Thanks to Justin Gumiran for bringing this book to my mind, and to Bob Leone for bringing this magical keyboard to my fingertips.

MAGIC: The Triphopera


      Merlin's Intro- They Can't Love You Enough

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LYRICS [hide]

All magic
without saying
is illusion
The effect of the illusion is how it appears
Preparation for the illusion
is everything
from the crimping of a card
to then thousand hours!
If preparation is sufficient and proper
The execution of the illusion is inexorable
Before you’ve even started
The work is done!
They will never forget you
or hold you less than kindly in their hearts
What I’m saying, you Beginners
Is if you do it right they can’t love you enough
If you do it right they can’t love you enough

      Everlasting Health and Strength

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I spend my life

getting my system ready
for your mighty thighs
I offer you a chance but you say NO
I offer again and again
But you still say NO

Final, Final Offer… Final, Final Offer – Act Now

Well I can tell
you’re the kind in need of coaxing
So here’s the deal:
Defend yourself against all odds

Secrets of Success, Secrets of Success – It’s Yours Free

This is a savings
of unparalleled value
Act now today
Offer expires at midnight

All I ever wanted, All I ever wanted – Act now
All I ever wanted, All I ever wanted – Yours Free
Secrets of Success, Secrets of Success—Act Free
All I ever wanted, All I ever wanted—Yours Now
The Secret of success is all I ever wanted—Act Free

      Anthem for Peggy Ann Snow

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Peggy Ann Snow
Peggy Ann Snow
Please let me follow wherever you go

Beautiful Peg
Beautiful Peg
Don’t go away and forget me I beg

Peggy and Cheerleaders:

Look out here we come
We’ve got those Wildcats on the run
So look out Wildcats
The Tigers have claws! (hey-hey)

Duke as Elvis:

Hound Dog
Teddy Bear
Love Me Tender
Don’t Be Cruel

Since my baby left me
found a new place to dwell
down at the end of Lonely Street
at Heartbreak Hotel

      The Birth of Fats

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LYRICS [hide]

Corky. The Cards. The fingers in the mirror.
Look at the fingers.

They never tired
A hundred hours
they moved and watch them go!

Don’t be an amateur
Do it right
For once in your life do it right!

Turn off the lights
turn on the gas
a hundred hours
close your eyes

Been here all this time
Why are you killing yourself?
He said you’re better than Thurston
and you’re as good as Leipzig

You haven’t slept for a hundred hours
Turn off the gas
get some rest and you
will leave them all behind

You can’t fail… I won’t let you
You can’t fail… I won’t let you

If you do it right they can’t love you enough

      You're Already Mindreading Me (Ten of Hearts)

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LYRICS [hide]

Corky: I don’t want to get into this
Peg: You’re already mindreading me
Corky: I’m afraid I will fail you
Peg: Mindreading me again

Put it on the pack and cut the pack
Cut it again, square it up, take my pack
I was standing with my back turned
Keep the one card

Ten of hearts, ten of hearts
Think hard of the ten of hearts
Nothing but the card, say it, ten of hearts, the one card
The ten, the red ten, the red goddamn ten of goddamn hearts

Think harder than you’ve ever thought before
I want this to happen, and now it will happen
I know it’s red, I saw the color in my mind
Now look at me and think

Ten of hearts, ten of hearts
Don’t think of anything else
It must be the heart ten
If it isn’t ten of hearts
Banish it, get rid of it,
Make him see the ten of hearts
Sorry, sorry, please don’t guess what I was doing then
I was wandering, looking in your eyes
But your eyes don’t matter
Only the ten of hearts matters
The ten, ten of hearts, please

Ten of hearts, the heart ten…

I can see it in your eyes…

I can see it in your eyes…

Turn over your card, please

Peg: Ten of Hearts / Corky: Diamond Deuce

      List Analysis: Corky vs. Duke

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LYRICS [hide]

I don’t love Corky
I don’t love Duke either
I like Corky a lot (from what I’ve seen of him)
Duke’s okay
Corky understands me
Duke doesn’t give a shit
Corky loves me… says he loves me… means it?
Duke doesn’t give a shit
Corky and I see things the same way
Duke and I don’t talk so much
Not to each other anyway
Corky’s attractive!
Duke doesn’t look like Elvis anymore
Corky is sweet and nice and kind and gentle
Duke tries
Corky is a success!
Sorry about that, Duke
Corky is romantic!
Duke couldn’t even spell R-O-M-A-N-T-I-C



3 comments to “MAGIC”

  1. You’re awesome!

  2. like that first song and story too.

  3. The book was made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann Margret. You can get it on Netflix.

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