cover image David Copperfield's Beyond Imagination

David Copperfield's Beyond Imagination

David Copperfield. HarperPrism, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-105229-3

There's a modicum of magic to be found in this second anthology (after Tales of the Impossible) from master prestidigitator Copperfield and Berliner. The stories are mostly second-rate entries from first-rate authors, and sweet if unsubstantial pieces from others. The best avoid any reliance on hocus-pocus, focusing instead on the magic of the human condition. Katharine Dunn's ""The Allies"" is a slight but nicely written tale of adolescent angst, family dysfunction and otherworldly craziness. Robyn Carr's ""Natasha's Bedroom"" is a softly sentimental fantasy about a widowed painter's relationship with her art. Karen Joy Fowler's ""The Queen of Hearts and Swords,"" about racism and perception in San Francisco in the middle of the 19th century, lacks the sharp focus of Fowler's finest work but still intrigues. Enjoyable if predictable, Peter S. Beagle's ""The Magician of Karakosk"" recounts the predicaments of a sorcerer entrapped by his own prodigious skills. In Greg Bear's ""The Fall of the House of Escher,"" the author takes a conjurer into a future so far-flung that all substance seems mirage. Seeing what humanity has become, the magician ""pitied them. They had lived lives of illusion without wonder...."" By contrast, this anthology about the wonder of illusion, though it may lack heft, presents enough razzle with sufficient dazzle to win not pity but modest praise. (Dec.)