This post is about a favorite author of mine. Journalist and senior writer for TIME… Lev Grossman. He is a favorite of mine for several reasons, but most importantly because he wrote a few of my favorite books (a book series), which is what I will be talking about: The Magicians, it’s sequel The Magician King, and if I can I will attempt to break as much as possible into the upcoming sequel in the series (supposedly the final book) The Magican’s Land. In addition to all this (if I’m still feeling up to it), I may share my thoughts on the red lighted TV series that really should have been and still, with whatever amount of luck and hope it takes, has a chance to be (green lighted… for another station).
I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while and I don’t really know why. This post is about a favorite author of mine. Journalist and senior writer for TIME… Lev Grossman. He is a favorite of mine for several reasons, but most importantly because he wrote a few of my favorite books (a book series), which is what I will be talking about: The Magicians, it’s sequel The Magician King, and if I can I will attempt to break as much as possible into the upcoming sequel in the series (supposedly the final book) The Magican’s Land. In addition to all this (if I’m still feeling up to it), I may share my thoughts on the red lighted TV series that really should have been and still, with whatever amount of luck and hope it takes, has a chance to be (green lighted… for another station).
Before I break into specifics about the author or of his books… or anything of the sort really, it is helpful to understand first and foremost that I am almost a strictly dedicated fictional reader and these are fictional books by authors who write mostly fantasy-fiction. Continuing, when it comes to fiction, there are things that are important to understand, just like in anything else, despite what you might think or what others may tell you. One of the biggest factors people need to understand about fiction gaining ground today (Internet aside… sort of) is that the books which become most popular and make way into the mainstream, or close to it, are the ones which are most closely related to reality. It seems like a simple concept, but most people don’t realize that society takes hold to reality quite closely, sure we all day dream and have other thoughts of the sort, but as humans we tend to do little more than simply alter the worlds we live in and thus that has been the helm for “fiction” over the years, slight changes so subtle that the stories themselves could be reality if circumstances allowed it. However, the majority of us stray away from any fictional concepts that are too abstract or… “other worldly.” We see it all the time: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, Narnia (mostly other worldly, however earth is it’s foundation), Pendragon, Artemis Fowl, most, if not all, comic book superheroes, etc etc. And sure there are many popular fully fledged big names in fantasy out there as well: Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, Eragon, etc etc. I do not want to make any claims that one is necessarily better than the other, more popular, or that one sells better than another, whatever. No, it’s a different kind of point. Yes, more fuller fantasies do provide a greater means of escape, which when reading books/ watching movies (whichever ) is what most fiction readers strive for, if not also for a sense of community, regardless it’s level of cult-like community. There is much at hand when it comes to the general acceptance of books both personally and in society as a whole, but I will not be looking at many, if any, other underlying factors. I will try to stick between Real world fantasy and Pure fantasy elements. It is with great leaps and bounds that we even made it from barely altered lifelike fiction to something along the sorts of more Real World Fictions such as Harry Potter, that begin to incorporate real fantasy aspects and elements. Anything of that sort, fantasy in any form from: lore, myths, folk tales, legends, and bedtime stories used to be at one time reserved for children and those naïve enough to believe in the stories. Somewhere along the line humanity developed a real palate for such stories and began to graciously accept them and make them more accommodated in accordance for novels and common literature. It would seem, as we grow, it follows that we tend to find ourselves leaning from fiction to more realistic or purely realistic, non-fiction books, a process once assumed upon us through evolution, aging, and maturity. However, the internet has thus proven the world to be quite flat, helping to strain and filter so many once stirred communities. The stereotype comic book geek no longer has to hide his comics in his school books for fear of being teased; he now understands there are actually plenty of people out there who read the same things he does. This flatness the web has created has helped “geeks” and “nerds” alike to let their unkempt hair down and set their pizza-roll greased fingers to clash with their keyboards. The result in the last decade or two has shown a far greater upswing in more fantasy type fictions than what we had been experiencing with entire genres battling the shadows of pop culture uncertainty. A lot of the growth can also be contributed to Hollywood and advancements in special effects, as well, but there is more to the evolution of storytelling and acceptance than that. Less fake love stories, could be horror stories, and “based on a true story” ordeals, and more scenarios really getting into the grit of fiction, yet all the same, finding balance in the fact that not all stories can be too over-the-top abstract, just yet. Of course the possibility remains that if the internet continues to fill the divide culturally, we’ll be moving more towards whatever genre(s) that culture dictates, whether it be pure fiction or documentaries (it won’t be documentaries). Naturally, sealing any divide (if at all possible) would take time, and I can see a shift from Real World Fantasy to Pure Fantasy becoming the new norm, especially not that far in the future. There are only so many earth based related ideas you can use and (as it seems anymore) re-use, before you must move on to something else, something different, out of the box, and a little more extraordinary.
And so we now live in a time, caught between a stampede of well connected nerds who have graced us with the gift of making fiction much more acceptable and stronger in the community and a time where there are still some people who hold back fiction’s full potential through their need for sensibility in life and their mis-generational, confused morals, still fueling the geek and nerd persona. That rift is where we find ourselves, a generation with pure fantasy still on the back burner, despite its gained acceptance, leaving us with Real World Fantasies such as Harry Potter influenced by our culture and in turn, influencing it back. This is of course in no way a bad thing. One of the many important factors in a story is character relatability, especially through solid character development. For some authors it is easy to make their characters relatable and for other authors it is less natural, but for fictional writers, there is no better crutch to making your characters relatable than by placing them in the real world, fueling them with all your pains, joys, and memories, while (of course) altering them just enough before you begin to incorporate the fantasy elements to make a good story of it all. Is it easier for you as a person to relate to a character who breathes oxygen and is an English speaking human being with a specific gender or is it easier for an author to paint a picture of a foreign world where gravity doesn’t exist, people are couches with gorilla toes, that breathe through their ears and talk through their nose, there’s no such thing as direction, the wind never blows, and in order to reproduce they ritually bury themselves alive when they’re near death as a sacrifice for their deity to spawn a gambled amount of children between the numbers 1 and 6 in their place, inventing all new ethics, economics, environments… all new everything? It’s overwhelming and a whole new learning process. People have barely time to read and when it comes to Pure Fantasy, sometimes they have to decipher and begin to comprehend a whole new lifestyle and jargon just to grasp what is more than likely a common storyline. Now this is of course an extreme comparison, few fantasy books are probably to that extent, though when more reach that complexity it may do great things for the genres. However, real world fantasies are something we can wrap our heads around much easier, as long as we can accept the few additions the author gives us that make his story unique. Most importantly in Real World fantasy, it spawns a hope that there could be. What would it take to really make the story happen? How do I get into Hogwarts? Maybe of all the spiders out there one really can give me magical powers. Maybe magic does exist and it’s just an underground cult I have to find my way into. I’m going to cram myself into every fucking nook and cranny until I’m in Narnia. These kinds of small hopes and dreams add a whole, much greater, attraction. It’s more luring than the prospect of reading something purely fictional and clinging to the hope that one day a wormhole will suck you up and take you to an entirely different dimension and universe where everything is different. Assuming we do not experience another major disruptive technology, completely altering how books are viewed, I find it likely (as I have mentioned) for fiction to be in a state between transcending from majority Real World Fantasy to (in the near-ish future) majority Pure Fiction Fantasy. This may not seem to say a whole lot, but it tells us where the genre(s) are at and that, for the time being, any aspiring writers can use the current trend, alongside others (vampires, magic, and erotica, whatever the minor trending factors) to break through into the world of literature by helping bridge the gap between the two. And this is exactly what Lev Grossman does so well in his Magicians series. He gives us a book that starts us off very with a very real world scenario, showing our hopes and desires of Real World fiction, which at a proper pace segues into something far greater by the way he weans you into an almost pure fantasy storyline, and doing more so in the sequel while hinting to touch upon it more in his epic conclusion to the story.The first book is sometimes criticized as “plotless” in a way by some reviewers and that seems like a strong, negative notion, to call the book negative for negative’s sake, as if it is emphasizing some terrible non-existent negative dramatic experience. However, this book has an appeal that not everyone can understand or grasp at first, but in today’s age I think is a growing common ground. Confusion and uncertainty… anxiety. It’s always been there, but in today’s age, teenagers, young adults have more trouble finding themselves than ever. We aren’t told what to do like our parents were, we have more options, human faith isn’t as popular as it used to be, rises in agnosticism and atheism alongside other world pains have nurtured this uncertainty and left everyone blanketed by it groping for more than they should. It shouldn’t take much to nudge us in the right direction, as to not to reflect too deeply and hard on things, to stop looking everywhere for something more, and learn to be happy with what we have… but it’s a message humanity has always failed to grasp as a whole. It’s a lesson I find myself constantly learning and re-learning and furthermore, Lev portrays this in the sequel, because the main character learns it and he has to re-learn it while learning so much more. It’s something we find ourselves digging for, when in reality it’s right in front of our face the whole time, and it’s something you need to be hit on the head with to show you just how stupid you’ve been, which is something the book does so well demonstrating in addition to everything else it does. The books are so real world based to begin with that it’s almost agonizing to read without relating to directly or wanting to be the person having the experience. One of the ways I’ve noticed Lev prides himself on his books, and I agreeably find it good reasoning, is that he has armed his character with the knowledge of fiction. This is a story of a “real life” teenager who has grown up reading fiction, almost a nerd like outcast, very smart. Someone who should be smart enough to know that the ideas of real magic are nowhere near existent and most, if not all, phenomena should and could be explained by science alone, yet all the reading he has done hasn’t stopped him from having that nugget of hope, wonder, and curiosity that, just maybe it could all be very real, that he is on the cusp of acquiring magic… and what if it were real? It’s that same hope every child has growing up when reading stories like Harry Potter. That maybe, just maybe his or her Hogwarts acceptance letter will show in the mail one morning. A hope that the generation whom grew up with the Narnia series may have known well, one that Lev incorporates into his books, one he alters and calls Fillory, the main fictional realm that his main character Quentin has grown up on and fallen in love with, one that gives him hope, and one that even after discovering a magical college, he searches for when the real world just isn’t good enough, even with magic surging at his fingertips.
The first book is of course a lot of essential discovering, how magic works, making friends, learning magic together, trying to discover the point of life beyond magic, what do you do when you’ve got it all, when you’re at the top and it seems there’s nothing left or nothing better for you? And this is all evenly balanced with a such a great and witty writing style that Lev has noticeably developed over the years as an avid reader and book critic, as a witty and awkward writer, he has a persona that is comparable to most online geek bloggers, cracked article writers, and general nerds alike that seem right in their element when writing but, it takes that moment when you talk to them face to face and see their need to convey their message through text, simply awkward people. Not that they’re bad speakers, but they are certainly better off as writers. Lev incorporates into his story giving his characters a much more lifelike edge each with their own witty persona, with stabs and verbal jousting at each other, slang, cursing, sex, drugs, and of course, drama… though not the same kind of “he said, she said” drama people have become accustomed too, but one that really opens up as the story unfolds, one that shows all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold, and that these childhood stories Quentin grew up with are a lot darker than the frolicking and happiness he supposed they ought to be. The book itself is a genuine and fascinating novel that in some parts, it takes further reflection to grasp all the horrific and darker themes surrounded by the wit and enlightenment. If anything it’s a book about growing up, looking back and questioning our every stupid and uneducated move. It’s important to understand that the first book will probably leave you almost empty at the end, lost and confused, leaving you wondering. It’s one of those writing styles authors use from time to time, they want you to think, they want you to hate the ending, you aren’t left warm and fuzzy, it isn’t a happily ever after. You with a trickle of hope. Left to think and to wait for the sequel where the author will tie up the loose ends, add some back story, and again, blow your mind. That’s what The Magician King does. I can’t talk about it too much without dropping way too many spoilers, but the sequel to The Magicians works in almost a reverse pace of the first book, of course it picks up where the first left off, but it answers so many questions that one may have gathered from reading the first. Half of the book itself is focused on a character that barely made an appearance in the original and unknowingly, at first, turns out to be the cause for all the problems in the story, which in return, the problem comes back to the main character, Quentin. It just goes to show how easily life can take a shit right on your head when you least expect it. And again the other half of the story is Quentin learning something so much bigger than him. The books are often referred to as “Harry Potter for adults” though, once you’ve actually read the book you can see how that’s not quite the proper association. The morals of both stories can be almost considered polar opposites, the difference between forced heroism and the need to be heroic. The “adult” part only going as far as to say it’s not about saving the world, but about figuring what to do with life when nothing needs saving and how you can screw everything up when you try to fix something that isn’t broken. If Harry grew up a normal wizard child and graduated carefree with no responsibility and nothing to do after school, well then he’d be in the same boat as Quentin, albeit a little less of a tortured soul, mixed up in the sex, booze, drugs, and uncertainty of life. The first page or two of the third and supposed final book in the series can be found online, it hints that the story itself will be very different from the first two, which overall shouldn’t be surprising, because the first two books are filled with enough surprises and so many different elements that by now, as a reader of the series, I should expect the story be nothing what I expect. The series itself was supposed to make it as a television show, Lev had tweeted and blogged about it for quite some time before he had to reveal to fans that it was given the red light. He is still, while writing the “final” book, pursuing other television companies to possibly give it the green light. Personally, I’d like to say that having read the books (and this is very unlike me) I wouldn’t want the story to become a movie. I usually go for that, but this story, this series, is one of such depth and information that it would be a massacre and abomination if it ever hit the big screen. Game of Thrones seems to be an example of books that are making their way on to the small screen and doing it rightfully so (though I say that based on reviews, having not watched or read the series, yet). I could of course talk more about the Magicians series and Lev Grossman, but I do not want to spoil anything with, well, spoilers. I’d much rather you just give it a try for yourself and if you have read it, feel free to talk to me about it, it’s always good to have someone to talk to about good literature. Otherwise, if you have a book or series you’d like to suggest I read, talk about, critique, whichever, feel free to let me know, however I’m finishing this post now because I’m quite tired. Thanks for reading!
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