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Off Topic: Between the possible and the impossible sits Carter Beats the Devil

I finally taught myself the Charlier cut this weekend. It’s a card move: a one-handed shuffle in which you basically flip one part of the deck up over the other using the thumb and index finger. I’d been trying to learn it for an absolute age – it’s seen as being a deeply simple piece of business, yet I struggled. In the end, there were two reasons it finally clicked for me. The first was a day of telephone calls, which gave me a lot of time to practice, phone tucked between shoulder and neck. The second, and this is quite weird, was switching to using my left hand. I’m right-handed, but for some reason I can only do this cut with the left.

There is often a quirk to learning magic, even the very simple non-magic magic of the Charlier cut. I am bad at card tricks in general, but deeply, perhaps foolishly, enthusiastic: I have learned enough bits and pieces now to know that I should always be surprised at what makes something come together for me.

This sense of surprise is perfectly captured in one of my very favourite novels. In fact, if the mark of how much you love a book is how often you buy it for other people, this must be the book I love the very most of all. It’s Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold. If you haven’t read it, today I’m going to try and convince you to pick it up.

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