on 3 December 2010
I love this book as I have long been a fan of Derren Brown, and I'm very interested in the way he thinks.This book is entirely comprised of descriptions of his thought processes, insecurities and childhood memories, providing a very personal insight into his life.
Yes, as many negative reviewerss have pointed out, Derren tends to ramble on somewhat, making use of sometimes overlapping multiple-page footnotes, in which he will often go off at several tangents, necessitating a backwards traversal through both pages and thought processes, to find the place at which he left off. But rather than seeming unstructured, I think that this is part of the books charm and appeal.
And yes, Derren uses long words, but again I can't see how that is a negative, unless your vocabulary is somewhat below average. I for one find it refreshing to read a book by a 'celebrity' who has a good command of the English language and isn't afraid to use it. If you find that frustrating, perhaps something like Chris Moyles' autobiography would be more appealing.
If you like Derren's TV shows, but aren't particularly interested in the man himself, or magic/conjuring in general, then you may not get much enjoyment from this book. But if like me, you are fascinated by what goes on in the mind of such a person, then I think you'll find it an enjoyable and interesting read.
on 25 October 2010
As befits an illusionist, Derren Brown is himself somewhat of an enigma. He obviously has a very quick mind, and an excellent grasp of human behaviour and how to manipulate it. As a performer, he offers his audiences an entertaining and potentially transformative experience without, apparently, exploiting anyone. A nice, self-assured man. However, the picture he paints here is of someone rather ill at ease with himself, subject (at least in the past) to compulsions ranging from the incovenient to the downright dangerous, and over-anxious to please. These are truly 'Confessions' (I wonder what other C word he considered before settling on 'Conjuror') and the degree of self-loathing he describes is surprising in a celebrity autobiography.
Not sure why, but I am reminded of Derren Brown's piece on 'Barnum statements' that seem very personal but apply to almost everyone. I am also aware that misdirection must be second nature to him. Perhaps the thing to do is leave the book for a while and then reread it with an eye open for alternative interpretations.
Overall. I think those of us who find Derren Brown interesting as a person - and there are plenty of them - will get most from this book, Anyone wanting to know how he does his 'tricks' should look elsewhere, and I'm not sure it quite stands on its own merits as a piece of writing. I hate to criticise a man who is more self-critical than the harshest of reviewers, but the verbose style, use of extensive footnotes and occasional pedantry can be irritating. Actually, thinking about it, it's reminiscent of Stephen Fry in lots of ways, including the self-revelatory tone, but without his light touch. Having said all that, it is very funny in parts, and Derren Brown IS a nice man.
on 19 November 2010
This book is very hard to describe. It reads like Derren sat down at his laptop and just went off on one. Derren's stories (I suppose I should say whimsies as the word "whimsy" appears on nearly every page it seems) are woven together by one card trick that is taking place in a Bristol restaurant. This trick comes to its finale on the last page of the book.
Derren is clearly a great thinker and there are some brilliant pages of writing, particularly when he describes being crass with someone due to lack of confidence. He manages to hit the nail on the head at times. Subjects such as Derren being irritated by losing his beloved pens in his flat or how he decides to take the lift or stairs in his apartment are covered. There are many funny anecdotes such as when Derren shuts his eyes and lets an old wheelchair bound woman freewheel down a hill in Croydon.
Unfortunately my motivation to finish the book waned due to the book's trivial nature. Much of the most trivial topics are placed in footnotes that run from page to page. One such footnote takes up three quaters of ten pages (believe it or not). At times, his thoughts go on and he simply puts a colon: and then continues the same sentence for the whole page which makes hard reading unless you are sharp as a razor.
To be fair, the book reads like a mind download from Derren, sitting or scurrying around his two apartments-knocked-into-one and putting those thoughts into writing (whether frivolous or not) and I suppose that was the purpose. Clearly no attempt to write down to the reader was made as Derren reaches deep down into his mental thesauraus to pluck the most arcane words from obscurity.
This book is certainly unique. I suppose you will love it or hate it. Derren is capable of much more than this effort however.
This is one of the strangest books I've ever read, and believe me - I've read some strange books.
What this book isn't:
- An autobiography, although much of it is supposedly autobiographical.
- A book about magic, although magic appears in it.
- A "how I do my tricks" book, like his "Tricks Of The Mind" book.
- A TV tie-in.
So what exactly is it? Well, each chapter uses Derren's performance of a card trick as its opening, and then things kind of wander off in other directions, almost like somebody telling you a story and then heading off on tangents, eventually returning to the central strand before veering off once more. It's an amiable ramble, a bit waffly if I'm honest, and full of footnotes, graphs and line drawings to expand upon points mentioned, but by the end I was still confused, wondering what exactly I'd read as I didn't know much more about the man, his work, magic... or anything really, apart from his thoughts on "Monster Munch" crisps, mushrooms, and poached eggs (seriously). In a way it would be a bit like seeing a magician do a trick where he says "pick a card, look at it, don't tell me what it is, and put it back in the deck," before he shuffles the cards, burns the deck, places a glass sculpture of an elephant in front of you and says "I'll let you think about that one," before wandering off. It's enjoyable, but deeply mystifying, and I can't help but wonder if, should I read it again, it would all suddenly click into place and somehow it would all make sense.
Confused? You will be. I enjoyed reading this, despite how confused it left me, but if you want a straight autobiography or a book about what Derren does, or magic in general, you'll be disappointed. Should you be looking for a book on Derren's act you should look at "Tricks of the Mind", and those who want an autobiography should maybe wait until something else comes along, but for now this is a wonderfully entertaining read where there is maybe more than meets the eye.
Recommended, but maybe wait until the paperback if you're uncertain.
on 6 January 2011
Because I payed considerably more to get this book in the US for christmas, the many reviews had me worried that this book, like a few others I've read, would give me the sinking feeling of disappointment and boredom. Of course this is made worse by an author I not only like, but have enjoyed reading and watching. So I entered the book not with lower expectations, but with a search to find what was so disliked by others. I found that I was once again nearly thwarted my own behavior of reading too many reviews before reading a book. Maybe it's a mistake in marketing, but people seemed to have expected something more straight forward from Derren, which is always a mistake. Even if I had expected something else, I don't know that it would be as annoying as I have read from others reactions.
Of course I cannot say the other reviewers are wrong, because this might not have been what engages them. But I not only was never bored, but can put this book in the page-turner category. A short and fine list among non-fiction in my reading world. More than once or twice I had to smile, knowing exactly what Derren was talking about, and pleased someone put it into words. The weaving around the story of the card trick was perfectly done. The trick itself was interesting and more so from the point of view of the one carrying it out. The pages of footnotes were far from annoying when one realizes that this is just comical or descriptive side story which allows more sight into his world. I didn't understand the frustration in other reviews, as I had no problem picking up where the footnote cut in. The writing itself wasn't as drawn out as I had read, though that could be a result of my own reading taste. If you're on the fence because of negative reviews, my advice is to go ahead and get the book,if you're a fan. Where as Tricks of the Mind is better (as a first read of his two) for those who aren't.
on 9 September 2011
What a curious oddity this book is.
One imagines the publishers at Channel 4 anticipating huge interest in another book from mentalist Derren Brown and urging him to push out another tome. "It doesn't matter what it's about, just write something, anything - whatever comes to mind" one imagines them saying. And judging by this book, that is exactly what our favourite mind bender has done.
`Confessions of a Conjuror' is a rambling, chaotic collection of (often tedious) anecdotes brought to you by an author who wants you to be aware of such riveting topics as: his procedure for cutting his fingernails, his thoughts on the use of a handkerchief to wipe one's nose, and, as the blurb on the back cover so proudly boasts, his speculations on the manufacturing of Monster Munch. The majority of Brown's observations and revelations are so mundane and inconsequential that one can't quite decide whether he wants you to know everything about him or nothing at all.
The glue that binds this riveting trivia together is a detailed account of a magic trick performed by the author in his younger days to both intrigued and indifferent diners of a busy restaurant. Somehow Brown skilfully manages to describe the trick in great detail without giving too much away. These fascinating sections allow Brown the opportunity to demonstrate and describe his unique blend of psychology, magic, misdirection, and showmanship. They are also where his literary skills become most apparent and lead one to wonder whether a novel would have been a more appropriate outlet for Brown's talents.
Sadly, although these lucid, erudite interludes save the book from being a complete washout, they seem lost amongst the parade of Proustian moments that pepper its pages. `Confessions of a Conjurer' fails to live up to its claim of being "a refreshing alternative to autobiography that will charm and delight you" and instead leaves you wondering what its purpose actually is. Mind-numbing analyses (such as the 11-page footnote examination of elevator behaviour) are mingled with mildly amusing comedic observations and dusted with a light sprinkling of awkward autobiographical reflection. It's as if Brown wanted to shake off his mysterious mentalist persona in the most embarrassing way possible.
I was hoping that the disjointed weirdness of this book was actually building to a mind-blowing climax worthy of one of Derren's stage shows. Sadly this was not the case. Derren Brown has once again succeeded in baffling his audience but, this time, not for the right reasons.
on 25 October 2010
Describing Derren Brown's book as a work of marketing genius may seem like a back-handed compliment; I'm not referring to his capacity to promote himself (why shouldn't he!), but to his ability to see into the murky world that exists between our conscious and unconscious minds - and that's the area marketing people should be aiming to understand.
I've read the one star reviews posted by a couple of people (loss aversion sends us rushing to check these, even on reviews where the vast majority of people rate a product highly) - fortunately I ordered the book before they appeared. I'm not saying that I can't see these reviewers' points, but I think they have misunderstood the book. That said, having heard Derren interviewed about it on Steve Wright's show, he didn't seem overly clear on what it was he'd set out to write!
Confessions of a Conjurer isn't a piece of superficial entertainment and nor is it a guide for those looking to 'Amaze and Amuse their Friends' - I still have that children's book somewhere; it certainly isn't an autobiography in the established sense. Instead this is an opportunity to have a large mirror held up to us, written by someone who actually understands how our minds really work.
Anyone involved in marketing or in the business of understanding consumers would do well to read this book for its insights into human and consumer behaviour.
Ultimately, if you like introspection and are interested in understanding the way all people think, this book is a treasure trove. The diversions the author takes make sense in the world of the non-rational unconscious mind that is frequently being explored.
Derren Brown goes straight to the top of my fantasy dinner party guest list as a result of writing this book: I'd even promise not to ask him to do any card tricks between courses.
on 30 January 2011
I 'listened' to the audio book which is narrated by Derren himself,
i thoroughly enjoyed confessions of a conjuror - it was funny, interesting and fascinating,
im glad i heard the audio book instead of reading as i believe hearing Derren reading makes it easier to picture,
if youre expecting a book like 'tricks of the mind' you will be disappointed as this is like an autobiography and a very enjoyable one at that
good job Derren :)
on 15 October 2010
Being a fan I had this book on pre-order for quite some time. Having read his previous work Tricks Of The Mind, and enjoyed his style greatly, I was consumed with excitment with the thought of him writing another book. A soon as this tome plonked onto my doormat (by the way, thank you Amazon for getting this to me on the day of release, considering I opted for free delivery) I opened it up and began reading and just couldn't put it down.
Having already made plain that I am a fan, it is clear that I'm likely to run parallel to Derren Browns feelings on various things and his points of view. At least that was my feeling before the book arrived. I was delighted to have some of my views on things challenged or at least adjusted. Opening up his life time of knowledge and research I feel enlightened and invigorated, and inspired to further my reading on some of the subjects and authors that Derren alluded to in this latest work.
Whilst it sounds quite like Tricks of The Mind, the narrative is really rather different. And surprisingly creative. It basically follows a trick in a resturant, with each element of the trick allowing him to go off onto a tangent, either on the psychological meaning or to reveal his personal experience/history. A very interesting take on a Biography format, and highly enjoyable.
With the humour, wit, deep knowledge and compassion of the performer/writer we all know and adore. I urge you to buy this interesting and genuine page turner.
on 5 December 2010
What can I say I love Derrens shows and thought his previous book 'Tricks of the Mind' was a great read. This book however doesn't really compare. It is basically a stream of Derrens thoughts about life following the plot of a card trick being performed as a professional magician in Bristol. I really couldn't get on with the book it doesn't really seem to be one thing or the other. People expecting an Autobiography will be disappointed and equally will people expecting a sequel to 'Tricks of the Mind'. The thrust of the problem with the book is that in many instances the writing style and language used is more taxing than it needs to be. I found this writing style in 'Tricks of the Mind' to be endearing and charming but in this book I found it to be more annoying, why use 20 words when 1 will do. In addition to this the footnotes make up half the book. The book does have some good elements I found his writings on kindness thought provoking and some of his writings on compulsion made me stop biting my nails!! But the problem is these interesting moments are interspersed with lengthy ramblings. Basically the book could be condensed to 50 pages and you would lose nothing. I think Derren is one of the best entertainers the country has and I hope he continues to do what he does for a long time to come. However if you miss this particular work you will not be losing a great deal. I think this book is probably a great read for Derrens friends and family but am not sure it will have the same impact on the rest of us.