Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Just finished it and liked it a lot. The first fantasy novel I've read since Susanna Clarke, and hers was the first I had read since 2000 (the opening Harry Potter book), and before that I don't remember.

Magicians. Vampires lead, of course, and then zombies, but I think magicians rank as the third-place staple for today's fantasy genre. Granted, their status rests on one mega-buster YA series and two fine popular novels. But werewolves are the only competition and I haven't heard of any big-deal novels/movies all about werewolves.

update, From his AV Club interview:

My overriding concern while writing this book was that fantasy fandom not perceive this book as coming from an outsider. I recognize that on paper, you can’t really tell that I’m a fan or a nerd. I work at Time, and then there are the schools I went to, which I need to get taken out of my fucking bio. I was really concerned about that. That’s why I spent a lot of time over the past year at conventions, just talking to people and introducing myself.

That's how I wound up talking with him! It seemed kind of odd that a big wheel at Time would be pressing his chapbook into the hands of some dork at a con. But it certainly worked out for me, since otherwise I wouldn't have read Grossman's novel. The joke is that, as noted, I don't read much fantasy/s.f. these days, so we were two floaters taking each other for insiders. Except that one of the floaters had written a damn good fantasy novel.

Here's my account, originally posted on HU:

In other news, I spent two hours in large, crowded rooms with Neil Gaiman today and can report that he is charming beyond smooth. This was at Worldcon, where the Hugo is awarded and which is being held here in Montreal this year. I also met Lev Grossman, though I had no idea who he was. He gave me a chapbook with the first chapter of his novel, which I liked, and at the end there was an author's bio. It revealed he is by far the most literarily connected person I've ever spoken to. Seemed like a nice guy! He had wandered into the back of the room during a misbegotten shambles of a panel whose scheduled participants had bailed and been replaced at the last minute. The subject was fantasy novels and how much politics and economics they should contain. Grossman offered that he was a fantasy novelist -- heads turned -- and that he had just finished a novel about a world much like the Narnia world but with some revisionism as to adult realities, including socioeconomic realities. For instance, how come Mrs. Hedgehog or whoever has a sewing machine when there are no factories in Narnia? That sounded good to me, so after the panel I asked for his name, he gave me the chapbook, etc. Hence the revelation that followed.

Back to the panel discussion. A very odd, even semi-deranged, lout also wandered into the room, but he sat up front and soon planted himself in the middle of the conversation, such as it was. Otherwise the place was full of whispery fans who deferred to each other; we didn't even raise our hands properly, just bent our elbows and parked a hand by our ear, fingers curled over. So the strange lout began talking loudly and soon offered an idea that I liked: how do we know that the whatever kids, Peter and Lucy and Susan and that other one, how do we know they were the first bunch to be sent along from our world to wake the sleeping king (or whatever their mission was). The fellow reasoned that getting the job done first crack out of the box was kind of a long shot. So maybe others had come along, failed, and died, and all over Narnia there were discreet little plots of land dedicated to the graves of the Wilkins children, the Anderson children, the Smith children, etc., but the talking animals didn't want Peter and Lucy and the rest to know, so they covered it up. I liked that he remembered they would all be Anglo-Saxon family names.

All right, so maybe it isn't the greatest single pop-culture revisionist geek goof you ever heard, but it sure livelied up the occasion. That panel sucked so bad. And the idea would come in handy if you were doing a parody about it being the late '80s and DC somehow acquiring the rights to Narnia and hiring some schmuck writer who had just read Watchmen.

No comments:

Post a Comment