Houdini: Art and Magic (Jewish Museum)

Houdini: Art and Magic - Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Alan Brinkley, Gabriel de Guzman, Hasia R. Diner, Kenneth Silverman This is essentially an exhibition catalogue, so I wasn't expecting an in-depth Houdini biography, which is just as well because this isn't.What it is, is a series of essays on various aspects of Houdini's life and legacy, very well illustrated with many photographs, lobby cards and theatre posters which I (at least) haven't seen before.The essays The Immigrant World of Harry Houdini, describing his status as a symbol of liberation and social mobility for immigrants to the United States, Houdini, the Rabbi's Son examining his relationship to his Jewish faith, were particularly good.What loses this book a star (and-a-half) from my rating are the essay about, and the interviews with, contemporary artists, which I found pretentious. This is probably due to my own ignorance of contemporary art and lack of exposure to the language used when discussing it, but there we are. It's also possibly a little unfair, given the title of the book puts Art before Magic.Anyway, I would have preferred a greater focus on the development of Houdini's image and self-mythologising through contemporary theatre posters (which are quite well represented in the illustrations, if not sufficiently discussed), magazine articles and newspaper stories.Despite these reservations, this is still a fascinating book and certainly one that I will return to.