Friday, September 12, 2014

The Magicians

 I determined to read Lev's Grossman's The Magicians because it's been deemed such an important fantasy book and because a friend who I trust wrote a thoughtful and provocative review of the series (warning: there are a spoilers in the review).

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)Intellectually, I liked the idea of exploring the fantasy portal as an emerging adult, rather than as a wonder-struck child. Lev Grossman basically crosses the portal (Narnia) and the enchantment of a magical school (Harry Potter) but throws in philosophical characters like Quentin (the main character) who seem innately immune to happiness. Over the course of the book, Quentin gets everything he wants: an aspiring stage magician, he finds himself admitted to a super-secret and exclusive school for magicians at Brakebills. But as he learns about the magic, even though he finds the magic fascinating, he never seems to find it quite as magical as the reader does. His friends (save Alice) are an unpleasant, narcissistic bunch. They're fascinating in small doses (much like a train wreck), but I found it difficult to press through an entire novel in their company.

For me, the intellectual angle of the book was it's main redeeming quality: I didn't enjoy the story itself and felt as if I had to force myself through much of the time. But I'm glad I read it. Some of the questions it raises about our expectations and what we think will make us happy are important questions. And I do, still, love the idea that maybe Narnia and those other fantastic worlds have a dark side that we don't always see--even the idea that maybe what most robs those worlds of enchantment is our own trespass there.

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