Books & Manuscripts

WEE-A-ZITH, Ricky Jay

By David Mamet

Ricky worked for a while in a carny, doing the bally, or, as we civilians might say, “the pitch,” to entice the suckers into the tent. Carny talk, Ricky taught me, was their version of pig-latin. E.g. “Where’s that five bucks you owe me?” became “weea- zere ee-a-ziz- the-a-zat fea-a-viv b-a-zuks yee-a-zoo…”

Carny folk would identify themselves to one another by announcing, “Wee-azith”; that is, “With it.”

“It” was not only the carny itself, but the life. The completer declaration was “wee-a-zith and fee-a-zore”; that is, I am not only with it, but for it: in all the way, and dedicated to the life and its rules.

Now, the rules of the carny were like the British constitution: unwritten, but understood by all, and those who weren’t for it, were against it, for it was a closed, mutually interdependent world.

Ricky lived in many seemingly unrelated spheres, but they were unified by his subscription to them, and his loyalty to their practitioners.

This loyalty was based on the understanding that each member was dedicated to the discipline. In Ricky’s case the disciplines were, magic, and its various subcategories of card manipulation, illusion, mentalism, cold reading, et cetera; and the elaboration into the history of the Arts, hucksterism, chicanery; and, then, as we see, into book collecting, 2 lithography and the widening gyre; and, always, writing and lecturing – which is to say, sharing his beloved knowledge as it had been shared with him.

But the sharing of knowledge did not extend to the revelation of secrets. He held these as close as might any great priest the Mysteries with which he had been trusted. For he understood himself as responsible to and for a metaphysical notion, which might be named “magic.”

As his day’s greatest performer and most important scholar of Magic, he was The Philosopher King whose tardy appearance has been so decried by the general population.

It was an honor to be his friend.

His work, his memory, and his collections are now, as during his life, part of that evanescent carnival he was so proud to serve.

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