Welcome back to the Skepchick Book Club. We’re discussing The Last Greatest Magician in the World, a biography about Howard Thurston, a magician who surpassed Houdini in popularity back in the early 20th century but has since been largely forgotten by the general public. He was a quick-witted con artist with a soft spot for children (but not for his wives) and he is what we think of when we picture old-timey magicians (along with Herrmann the Great).
Join us in the thread to talk about the life of Howard Thurston and the history of early 20th century magic. And if you’re interested, this month’s dessert is a Cherry Dump Cake. My fellow Southerners should be familiar with this recipe, but to everyone else I promise it’s not as horrifying as it sounds!
Most of the people who attended the Boston Skeptics’ Book Club meeting liked this book, but what are your thoughts? Did you enjoy reading about the nuance and intricacies of the life of a 1920’s magician? Or did you find the book a little long-winded and too detail-oriented for your taste? Were you more inclined to think of Howard Thurston as a great man or mostly terrible because of how he treated his wives? Did it strike you as funny that Houdini was rarely mentioned in the book and yet he is one of the most well known magicians in today’s world? Also, how cool would it have been to travel the world in the early 20th century? Did it upset you to read about Delhi (the baby elephant) and the other animals mentioned?
Thurston was a complicated man (and nobody understood him–not even his woman). I liked the book because it gave a nice slice of life description of what the golden era of magic, back when people thought spirits were real and psychics were using supernatural powers (oh wait, people still think that). I enjoyed the emphasis on showmanship without–the way that magicians had to speak to a crowd, super-enunciating and yelling every word.
Today’s themed recipe is a Cherry Dump Cake, because it is so easy to make it’s like magic! (Yeah, I know the connection is a stretch, but the dessert is still good.) If you can open a can, you can make this dessert. You basically dump a can of undrained crushed pineapple in an 8×8 baking dish, dump a can of cherry pie filling on top of that, and dump a box of yellow cake mix on top of everything. Then top evenly with 2 sticks of sliced butter and some chopped nuts. Bake for 45 min – 1 hour at 350F, and enjoy! It’s like a rich, dense cobbler and it is fan-fucking-tastic.
Details for Next Book Club:
The next club will be on Sunday, August 26th, posted at 11 am EST. We will be reading The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean (you may recognize him as the author of The Disappearing Spoon). Come and join us then, if you are genetically inclined.
Featured Image: Jill Powell