Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Open Sesame" in Beyond Bizarre

We're delighted to be twice-referenced in Varla Ventura's Beyond Bizarre, an entertaining collection of stranger-than-fiction stories and trivia. In the chapter on famous magicians, hoaxes, and feats of human endurance, see our explanation of why "open sesame" is the most straightforward magical key.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fiction / Magic

Vladimir Nabokov's word for fiction was magic, and he called the library "that citadel of illusion" (New York Times).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Alchemy of Words

The Weiser Books Blog has a piece about the alchemy of words:

Words, my friends, have power. The immediate success or failure of a book depends on many factors – timing and circumstance not least among them. But ultimately, an individual book lives or dies by the power of its content – words, ideas, the beauty of language.
One of the entries in our Magic Words: A Dictionary pops up:


“Just say the magic word: Oprah” – Vince Vittore, America’s Network (Jan. 1, 1995)

  • Dust
  • Fawn
  • “She who turns her back” – Adrian Room, Cassel’s Dictionary of First Names (2002)
Origins: This is the given name of the successful talk-show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. The word is of Hebrew origin.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Poetry and Magic in Black or White

"As with magic, poetry is black or white, depending on whether it serves the sub-human or the superhuman." —RenĂ© Daumal

Saturday, November 20, 2010

There are no S's in "Magic & Meaning"

We contributed an article in the December issue of MAGIC magazine about our favorite magical gathering. Here's a snippet:

There are No S's in "Magic & Meaning"

What's the secret for keeping a magic conference from turning into a "vicious circle"? For host Jeff McBride, it's uncoiling that circle into a spiral, with a fixed starting point but enough momentum to spring. McBride's unwound magic circle, known as Magic & Meaning, is an innovative, annual conference held over four days in Las Vegas. McBride gathers a band of prominent thinkers, theorists, and philosophers of the art to spark insights for magicians from around the world. Attendees have only one thing in common: a quest to unravel the secrets of wonderment.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Kzspygv is the word for rainbow in Vladimir Nabokov's private language of synesthesia (as discussed in Speak: Memory, revised edition, 1967).

(Strange rainbow photo by ZeePack.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vanishing Writers of Magic Words

While participating in a writing workshop, Irene Borger was asked to gather every word that came to mind within a few minutes, as if one were saving these words from destruction. Irene found herself happily jotting Abracadabra, Open Sesame, Presto Change-o, and the like. "Yet, sometimes," she notes, "I find myself wondering what magic words can do when too many people who write them are vanishing" (From a Burning House, 1996).

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk is the thunderous voice of God made audible through the noise of Finnegan's fall in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turning Grief to Song

Blessed be thy tongue!
O magic word, that turns my grief to song!
—Pierre Corneille, Polyuecte, translated by Thomas Constable

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Abba Zabba

Abba Zabba appears in a Captain Beefheart song of the same name (1974). The lyrics are a sort of nursery rhyme about childhood rituals and seem to suggest that the primal syllables abba zabba are “song before song before song.”

Abba Zabba is also the name of an old-fashioned peanut butter taffy candy bar.

Friday, November 5, 2010


"One remembers his first modest advertisements headed with the magic word Thrift, Thrift, Thrift, thrice repeated; promising ten per cent on all deposits."
—Joseph Conrad, Chance (1913)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


"'Little devils! . . . Shoot ’em! Jump on ’em with big boots! That’s the only way to deal with ’em . . . rabbits!' At that word, that magic word, she revived."
—Virginia Woolf, "Lappin and Lapinova" (1939)