February 23, 2007

The Prestige

Filed under: magic — ubikcan @ 9:33 pm

The Prestige is out on DVD this week and I’ve been taking a look. I was curious about this movie, having read the book when it came out, not to mention being a long-time fan of Christopher Priest’s work.*

The Prestige:

This is probably Priest’s most well-known and maybe even his best, work. Though the Dream Archipelago series is a sentimental favorite among his fans. The Affirmation, which I read when it came out in hardcover (and maybe was the first hardback book I ever bought).

The Prestige begins with a modern day journalist being sent on assignment to what he feels is a wild goose chase; some supernatural element or something. When he gets to the house, a woman gives him a strange diary, which seems to record the life story of one of her ancestors, a magician form the turn of the century named Alfred Borden.

All is not what is seems. Who wrote the diary? It was edited by a magic aficionado after the magician’s death, and seems to contain other irregularities, not the least of which is that it continues, or seems to, after the death of the writer!

Priest plays with time, identity, memory (as always) and structures the novel somewhat like a magic trick (he’s said this in interviews, no great insight on my part). There is The Pledge (where the magician/novelist shows you everything and it all looks normal), there is The Turn, where something is revealed and brought back, and then there is The Prestige, which is the effect or additional emotional feeling you get beyond the trick. Literally in the novel described as “what’s left over after the trick” “the product of magic” [memory loss there!] a somewhat loaded comment.

I thought for a long time that “prestige” was a real magician’s circle piece of terminology, but apparently Priest invented it along the lines of prestidigitation.

Glad to see Priest appearing several times in the extras for the DVD. He has a big nose.

*Sorry ubik, but the consolation is that the prestigious Library of America is releasing 4 Dick novels in May:


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