The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini

Avid Reader. Oct. 2019. 336p. photos. bibliog. ISBN 9781501137235. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501137259. BIOG
Posnanski (The Secret of Golf), a self-confessed Harry Houdini fan, has written a marvelously entertaining book about his magical hero, shedding light on the background, motivation, and methods of a man who built a career around deception. Beginning with the much-mythologized childhood of Houdini (1874–1926), Posnanski charts the course of the Hungarian-born American illusionist’s career, interviewing both fellow fans and critics to separate fact from fiction, revealing along the way a highly ambitious, often contentious, yet oddly likable man who was both consummate showman and brilliant self-promoter. But Posnanski’s book is not just a biography of Houdini: it’s as much an exploration of why Houdini’s fame and legend endures, and how that legacy has inspired, confounded, and influenced generations of magicians and magic enthusiasts. Throughout, Posnanski introduces an eclectic cast of Houdini acolytes and scholars whose stories illustrate Houdini’s powerful, continued hold on the public imagination.
VERDICT Imbued with Posnanski’s infectious passion for all things Houdini, this is a rollicking look at one of the 20th century’s most influential and enigmatic entertainers.
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