Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India

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University of Chicago Press, Jun 11, 1991 - History - 455 pages
Vast like the subcontinent itself and teeming with outrageous and exotic characters, Net of Magic is an enthralling voyage through the netherworld of Indian magic. Lee Siegel, scholar and magician, uncovers the age-old practices of magic in sacred rites and rituals and unveils the contemporary world of Indian magic of street and stage entertainers.

Siegel's journeys take him from ancient Sanskrit texts to the slums of New Delhi to find remnants of a remarkable magical tradition. In the squalid settlement of Shadipur, he is initiated into a band of Muslim street conjurers and performs as their shill while they tutor him in their con and craft. Siegel also becomes acquainted with Hindu theatrical magicians, who claim descent from court illusionists and now dress as maharajahs to perform a repertoire of tricks full of poignant kitsch and glitz.

Masterfully using a panoply of narrative sleights to recreate the magical world of India, Net of Magic intersperses travelogue, history, ethnography, and fiction. Siegel's vivid, often comic tale is crowded with shills and stooges, tourists and pickpockets, snake charmers and fakirs. Among the cast of characters are Naseeb, a poor Muslim street magician who guides Siegel into the closed circle of itinerant performers; the Industrial Magician, paid by a bank, who convinces his audience to buy traveler's checks by making twenty-rupee notes disappear; the Government Magician, who does a trick with condoms to encourage family planning; P. C. Sorcar, Jr., the most celebrated Indian stage magician; and the fictive Professor M. T. Bannerji, the world's greatest magician, who assumes various guises over a millennium of Indian history and finally arrives in the conjuring capital of the world—Las Vegas.

Like Indra's net—the web of illusion in which Indian performers ensnare their audience—Net of Magic captures the reader in a seductive portrayal of a world where deception is celebrated and lies are transformed into compelling and universal truths.
 

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User Review  - mrgan - LibraryThing

50 pages in, I'm finding the style this is written in—uneven, verbose, self-congratulatory, trying too hard to be poetic—severely annoying. On top of it, the stories Siegel recounts early on just ... Read full review

Net of magic: wonders and deceptions in India

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Siegel, a professor of religion at the University of Hawaii and member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, presents a huge melange of personal experience and Indian mythological tradition ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Elements of Magic
1
Birds and Fire
7
Diving Duck
9
Delhi
25
Soaring Pigeon
57
Kashmir
71
Ropes and Air
121
Knots
123
NorthSummer
245
WestFall The Reflections of Professor M T Bannerji 2
289
SouthWinter
317
Bones and Earth
357
The Skull of Vishvasiddhi
359
Magicians at Court
381
indrajalasutra A Skeleton of Magic
401
Field Notes on Magic
423

Wandering Magicians
147
CutandRestored
173
The Indian Rope Trick
193
Mirrors and Water
223
EastSpring The Reflections of Professor M T Bannerji 1
225
Words and Ether
441
Bibliography
445
Illustrations
453
Acknowledgments
455
Copyright

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Page 455 - Studies of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation.

About the author (1991)

Lee Siegel is professor of religion at the University of Hawaii and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. His books include Laughing Matters: Comic Tradition in India, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


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