VERNONABILIA-- Back in the early internet days, when the best forum was Bruce Barnett's Electronic Grymoire, something wonderful began to appear in that arena, a sequence of memoirs called "Vernonabilia," by one "Zambolini." Zambolini, who turned out to be Mike Perovich, chronicled the golden days of the Magic Castle, specifically the activity that swirled about Dai Vernon, and he did so in a charming, wise, insightful manner the likes of which we rarely experience in magic. As these years were the same years that I had occasion to visit the Castle, the nostalgia factor for me was intense, and I eagerly awaited each installment. I eventually collected all 43 and have hoarded them ever since, occasionally dipping into them to relive the wonder years, and always hoping, occasionally suggesting to Mike himself, that the collection be reproduced some day in a more permanent format. It finally has been, in a new book from Hermetic Press called The Vernon Companion/Stories and Observations on the Life of Dai Vernon and the Magic Castle*, considerably and thoughtfully enhanced by Mike and packaged beautifully as only Stephen Minch can.
Thanks for the memories.
As to content, Mike has grouped the titled installments (expanded from my original 43 to 78) into Introducing the Professor, The Grandfather Stories, Vernon and Company, Commentary, Observations, The Professor Himself, Stories and Observations by His Friends, The Raconteur, and The Urban Legends. Four appendices have been added to establish the context of the anecdotes: a history of the Magic Castle, a Vernon biography decade by decade (fascinating!), Vernon's world (the magicians, gamblers, and so on who influenced him), and a list of the magicians of the Magic Castle 1970-1980. The 383-page hardback, looking suspiciously like a copy of Erdnase, is illustrated with cartoon drawings by Colin Fleming (the son of one of Mike's architect friends) and with a sampling of photographs, most notably of some of Vernon's relatives. Hermetic Press further classed the book up with beautiful endpapers and a handy ribbon bookmark.
It is hard to express how utterly gifted Mike is at evoking what it was like to be there, both the emotions and the factual details. When he describes the winding path to the original library, where you were in considerable danger of colliding with a waiter, I am there again. It was always a breathtaking journey. As much as this book illuminates Dai Vernon and the last nearly thirty years of his life, it also inadvertently illuminates that of the author, not a bad thing to happen. One of the most touching of those personal anecdotes describes Mike's first night at the Magic Castle. It is frustrating that I cannot now recall my own, but it is a rite of passage for all magicians who live a full life, and Mike's visit contained seeds that would bear fruit for decades. As he says in a slightly different context, "It was nothing short of electrifying to be there."
I am purposely waiting until Christmas to continue to savor both the selections I've enjoyed in the past and the many new ones (at least, waiting is my resolution). There is a good chance this book will become my favorite in magic, and it definitely rates a bedside resting place, just too good to be relegated to the library two floors below. Stephen has printed only 600 of these, and I urge you to acquire one while the opportunity lingers. $65 from Hermetic Press.