Nick Cave has answered to more than one hundred of these Red Hand Files and the number 117, published this morning, is particularly moving. Many of his entries have this same poignancy because many of them allude more or less directly to his son Arthur, who tragically died in 2015. However, Nick Cave often writes these elaborate and refined answers with the ghost of Arthur looking over his shoulder. This time, it is a bit different, it is a very vivid story, filled with expressive memories of the young man, we learn about Arthur’s life and his early passion: magic.
Richard, a fan from London asked Nick Cave if he enjoyed magic, card tricks, stage illusions, and the famous musicians revealed Arthur’s passion with many poignant details: Arthur joined a Young Magicians Club and, during the summer of 2014, he and his father spent their Saturdays at the Magic Castle, Los Angeles’ famous venue dedicated to magic, and renowned magicians’ intimate club. The place is so vintage and mysterious than it’s not difficult to imagine Nick and Arthur roaming inside these historic walls.
Arthur Cave became a very good magician, he even received a compliment from the famous illusionist David Blaine, but suddenly lost his passion, I believe shortly before he died. The last paragraph is heartbreaking and very moving. But now I understand why Nick Cave told us many times about ‘magical thinking,’ during some of his live ‘Conversations with Nick Cave.’ ‘We have a survivor instinct toward magical thinking,’ he told us at the Disney Music Hall just a year ago. Nick Cave has still faith in magic, and this sentence has a sort of double meaning now.
Here is Nick Cave’s very touching Red Hand File #117:
Yes, I do have an interest in magic, or at least I used to. My boy, Arthur, became obsessed with it when he was about thirteen and for a year, maybe more, all he did was magic. Every day he sat around shuffling cards and flipping coins, and watching endless online magic tutorials and DVDs by his favourite magicians. He joined The Young Magicians Club at The Magic Circle and I would drive him around to magic shows and magician’s conventions and trade shows and magic shops. He practised and practised and became really good at it.
In the summer of 2014, in Los Angeles, we spent much of our time down on Hollywood Blvd watching the street magicians, and Arthur would show them his magic tricks and they would show him theirs. We hung out at the Magic Castle every Saturday that summer, and entered this strange community of magicians, who taught Arthur the Classic Pass and the Double Turnover and the various coin tricks, and Arthur got so good at sleight of hand it seemed that there was nothing he couldn’t make disappear.
Our dear friend Larry ‘Ratso ’Sloman, who wrote the definitive book on Harry Houdini, introduced us to the great David Blaine — we went to his house and Arthur showed him a couple of his tricks and David called Arthur ‘a good magician’, then took out a deck of cards and completely blew our minds. Later on he gave Arthur the novel, Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, which Arthur never read, but kept next to his bed.
Then one day, back in Brighton, Arthur just stopped doing magic completely. I asked him why and he just shrugged and said, “I don’t want to do it any more, dad”, and that was the end of that — and, I suppose, the end of my active interest in magic, too.
Richard, I hope I’ve answered your question. I am sorry that maybe in the end these words are not addressed to you. Maybe these words are projected beyond this world, as a wish, as a prayer, as a sleight of hand, hoping they may draw the attention of the spirits themselves. Our boy, our magician, our vanisher — we miss you.
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