A Brief History of Magic

By Catalina Righter
News Editor
Ian Flinn is well known around campus as a skilled magician, but his greatest trick of all may be publishing his book, “Conjuring Curiosity,” while keeping up with his thesis and the many other obligations of any college senior.
On Monday, Flinn gave a book talk and signing, which he describes as “bringing the past and present together of what magic really is.”
He wrote the book to gain a deeper understanding of his craft. “When I tried to expalin to people why I was so into magic I would say, ‘Oh I like the theory,’ but I never really knew what I was talking about,” he said.
The book runs 52 pages, the same number of cards in a standard deck, which was a “total coincidence,” according to Flinn.
His work was funded by an opportunity grant from the CV Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and he is currently working with a grant from the Miller Library.
He said that Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold director of the C.V. Starr Center, was a mentor for Flinn throughout the process of researching the book and called him, “kind of my chief advisor in putting it all together.”


Flinn said, “When I started, I was just looking through a bunch of magic books that were all secondary sources, and what [Goodheart] told me was, you know, dive into those.  Look into their primaries and see what they have. And I realized they didn’t really have that many. It was kind of just word of mouth, and I was like, ‘Well, let’s see if there’s actually something behind this.’”
“I looked from those, and then I started using the databases, and he went through and showed me how to really use the keyword searches and really how to find stuff, and that’s how I got into finding primary sources for the book.”
Flinn found his publisher, Dan&Dave Industries, through an internship helping to build the magic company’s website. His editor is from the company.
He also had staff from the College help him with editing including Amanda Kramer, Miller Library director of Access Services, Heather Calloway, archivist and special collections librarian, and Goodheart. “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it when I have the tools, where people can actually help me,” said Flinn.
In order to manage the time commitment of the book, he said, “a bulk of it was written in the summer, and I did a lot of the research over last winter break and this past summer…I really recommend trying not to do it while you’re in classes because even now my thesis is hitting me.”
“It’s tough but if you have something you want people to know, I don’t think you should let anyone hold you back in getting it out there for people,” he said.
His next magic-related project will be going through magic books that were donated to the Miller Library, “researching the magician who donated them and what he was all about and what he studied… I’ve only looked through maybe 20 of the over 300 books that he has. It’s an overwhelming collection,” he said.
Despite writing a book on the history of magic, Flinn is not an English or history major, but a psychology major with a concentration in clinical counseling. He said, “I think magic is real, but not in the sense that I have a superpower. I think it’s that ability to use the elements to fool someone, that is magical.”

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