Book Review: Off the Bookshelf

Paul Quarrington

Off the Bookshelf

The Spirit Cabinet

by Paul Quarrington

Atlantic Monthly Press, 352 pp., $24

Treading on ground that readers of Tom Tryon's Night Magic may find familiar, The Spirit Cabinet looks at the division separating stage magic -- the art of conjuring and illusion -- from the deepest primal real magic. The Spirit Cabinet of the title is a primitive-looking antique armoire with a shady spirit history. The book begins when the two most famous magicians in Vegas, the glossy and successful duo of Jurgen and Rudolfo, pick up the cabinet at an estate auction and haul it back to the bedroom of their multi-million-dollar desert palace. As soon as the couple returns home with their nearly $5 million prize, strange things start happening (strange even for a couple who have an artificial creek running through their house). Like much antique furniture, The Spirit Cabinet is uneven. While the descriptions of the childhoods of the two protagonists are interestingly told, it is difficult to distinguish between the adult men. One of them works with animals, the other doesn't. One of them wanted the Spirit Cabinet, the other didn't. One of them thinks everything is all right when he begins floating above the bed at night, the other doesn't. With Mardi Gras soon upon us, you'll have a better time skipping this fair-to-middling book and saving your money for luminescent paint and a good costume.

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The Spirit Cabinet, Paul Quarrington

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