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The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini Paperback – 1 Oct 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade; Reprint edition (Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081297042X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812970425
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,670,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"What is it about this mother-fi xated, death-obsessed, overly competitive insomniac...that continues to fascinate us?...What [Ruth Brandon] found was a man with a gift for self-promotion equaling that of Madonna's."
--USA Today
"Elegant...[Brandon reveals] the surprising charisma of the man whose name has, for more than a century, evoked wonder."
--The Boston Globe
"Superb...Brandon is a shrewd and incisive biographer."
--John Banville, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"What is it about this mother-fixated, death-obsessed, overly competitive insomniac...that continues to fascinate us?...What [Ruth Brandon] found was a man with a gift for self-promotion equaling that of Madonna's."
--USA Today
"Elegant...[Brandon reveals] the surprising charisma of the man whose name has, for more than a century, evoked wonder."
--The Boston Globe
"Superb...Brandon is a shrewd and incisive biographer."
--John Banville, Los Angeles Times Book Review

What is it about this mother- xated, death-obsessed, overly competitive insomniac...that continues to fascinate us?...What [Ruth Brandon] found was a man with a gift for self-promotion equaling that of Madonna s.
USA Today
Elegant...[Brandon reveals] the surprising charisma of the man whose name has, for more than a century, evoked wonder.
The Boston Globe

Superb...Brandon is a shrewd and incisive biographer.
John Banville, Los Angeles Times Book Review"

Book Description

A reissue of Ruth Brandon's definitive biography of Houdini. When Harry Houdini died in 1926, he was one of the most famous men in the world. Having started out as a vaudeville magician, he soon began to specialise in the escapes for which his name remains a byword. In this classic biography, Ruth Brandon explains in detail the secrets of Houdini's most celebrated escapes, but more importantly she asks, 'What was Houdini really trying to escape from?' - and, searching for the answer, reveals a man far more extraordinary than any of his audience could have imagined. 'A ripping account of shamanism, celebrity and magic' Sunday Times 'Brandon paints a fascinating picture of this complicated and charismatic character, and also of turn-of-the-century America' The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 22 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
A rip-roaring read, featuring vaudeville shows, ocean crossings, huge family tensions and mother love, and a cast including Sarah Bernhardt, the Wright Brothers and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Harry Houdini and his extraordinary family. Ruth Brandon has written a psychologically fascinating page-turner - I didn't want to put it down! A great choice even for people like myself with no particular interest in magic or escapology. Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
I've read every biography on Harry Houdini and this one is good...but it isn't the best. (The best is Ken Silverman's Houdini! The Career of Ehrich Weiss.) Ruth Brandon seems to have read several old Houdini bios and simply recycled the information. Even her much publicized (and much maligned) "psycho-babble" comes right out of Bernard C. Meyer's Houdini A Mind in Chains (1976). Indeed, this excellent long out-of-print book seems to be Ms. Brandon's "Deep Throat." Her chapter relating the events leading up to Houdini's death is taken almost paragraph for paragraph from the Meyer book. And do we really need to hear about the author's own childhood experiences with magic? Still, it's a good read, but for a serious and truly revealing Houdini bio go with the Silverman book.
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Format: Paperback
A superb account of the life of the worlds best remembered escape artist. This is the only account of Houdini's life that I have read, but I recommend it to anyone with an interest. The book covers Houdini's life from start to finish and gives an amazing incite into his incredible life. I especially found Houdini's latter battle with the charlatan clairvoyants of particular interest. I won't spoil the ending, but it was an unfortunate end for such a remarkable man.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hope that nobody construes one star as a grudging endorsement of this book because if I could give it 5 black 'minus merit' stars I would. Why? Because Ms Brandon's obvious contempt for her subject oozes through the pages like a sickly stench despite her efforts to remain objectively authoritative. Harry and Bess did not have children. Why, nobody knows. However, for this biographer it is patent evidence of Houdini's impotence and the fact that he had a close relationship with his mother and was, therefore, somehow conflicted in expressing physical love with his own wife. The evidence for this? None whatsoever. Just the demented agenda of a laughably Freudian schoolgirl. Ms Brandon takes quite simple and straightforward acts of decency by Houdini, like maintaining the graves of numerous magicians he respected, at his own considerable expense, and imposes on them a grotesqueness of motive that is hard to reconcile with any modicum of reality. This book is poison and is littered with basic errors of syntax, grammar and paragraph structure. I'm surprised anyone ever published it and I regret buying it.
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