Tag Archives: book haze

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

30 Jun

The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman

A while ago I was reading an article about the progression of the series on SyFy called “The Magicians” that would be moving forward in production. Hey! I thought, I read that! That would make a great series!

I decided then that it was time to finish the trilogy in order to be fully prepared for, what I can only imagine, will be a magical and wonderful television series.

The Magicians:

In the fall of 2012 I was living in a new community, had just graduated library school, and I was looking to get involved with my local library. I was in luck because they had just introduced a sort of “books on tap” kind of book club and the first meeting was the next month. The title the librarian chose was “The Magicians” a book I had only sort of seen but not really heard of. I knew that I would love it because I enjoyed Harry Potter and I like stories with magical realism inserted into the plot.

I hated it. What was also going on in my life was that my Mother was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I had time to read “frivolous” books about magic. I needed real big L literature. I went to Madrid for a visit while my husband worked and then, a few months after her diagnosis, my Mother passed away.

But this book kept needling me. It had all of the elements of a book that I would love. And I should have loved it. I ran an experiment: If I read this book a second time and still hate it: well,  I tried. But if I read it a second time and loved it, it would be proven: sometimes we aren’t ready for a book.

I loved it. Quentin was just moody enough and I was just old enough to love this. I was grieving the loss of my Mother and I got it, Quentin. I understood you. I understood what it means to be waiting for something more to happen.

The Magician King

For this title, I knew that I didn’t have a lot of time to read. I ordered the book used (and scored a used library copy at that–treasure!!!!) so I tried reading it on e-book. But it wasn’t working for me. We hear more from Julie and Quentin is getting older and I just had a hard time reading it. I was busy with a new job and I knew that I was going to really enjoy this book! I didn’t want to rush it.

So I took a chance and downloaded the audiobook. And that is the moment this series became special to me. Mark Bramhall’s voice at first appeared a little off for me. To narrate this story I had always assumed a young voice in my mind. A twenty-something young man’s voice full of sarcasm and wonder and maybe a touch of naivete.

But as the story darkened and as Quentin grew into his own I knew that this was the perfect choice. Bramhall’s voice makes it. The sparkle of wonder at being in Fillory is rightfully shadowed in a dripping sardonic tone that often colors the story much sadder than I think it would be if I were reading it on the page.

We get to know Fillory much more intimately and following Quentin is a pleasure–even if sometimes it’s so very difficult to see him flounder. And the introduction of Julia and her trials and tribulations make this story so much more real than Harry Potter could ever be–because this is a story about growing up. Harry Potter is so much more about what it means to be a child and what it means to tell a good story with characters written with the complex depth reserved for children’s literature. Here, with the Magicians trilogy we are privy to real human characters and what it means to long for one’s childhood. To long for something more–and to realize that even when you get that “more” you may not always be happy with it.

The Magician’s Land:

Because I was so transfixed with Mark Bramhall’s narration I decided to finish the trilogy on audio. I cried many times and I sat in my car on more than one occasion just to finish the chapter. Here Grossman’s talents really shine. He is able to sculpt the story into one that will become (or SHOULD) become a classic. This trilogy allows its characters to make mistakes and to grow from them. Quentin starts this story as a moody teenager who takes love and life and magic for granted. We watch him grow into a man who knows his limits, knows who he is, and understands that even with all of his failings: he matters. He struggles with his failings but he knows in his heart that while he can’t fix everything and he can’t make it right, he can make it good.

This story spoke to me in a such a very real and awe-inspiring way. Much like Harry Potter is to so many readers, this story awoke in me a passion and nostalgia for the story as I closed it’s final pages. I found myself feeling what the characters were feeling and that is a powerful way to immerse oneself into a story.

I know that I will revisit Quentin and his friends soon. I hope that you do, too.


What do I read next?

17 Mar

I have a lot of conversations with people about books. Being a librarian this isn’t really surprising but what is surprising is the constant need people seem to have to justify to me, as a librarian and, presumably, as a book snob, that they do in fact read A LOT. If a patron isn’t justifying to me their reading preferences then they are confessing to me why they haven’t been reading (read two Dickens, one Atwood, and a collection of essays and thou art forgiven!). Usually people don’t have time or they can’t find the right book. As a librarian my job, generally speaking, is to help people find what they are looking for and usually what they are looking for is a book that will live up to the last book they read that was amazing. This isn’t always true but many times during a readers advisory interview (I sound so fancy!) I learn that the last book they loved was so wonderful and so engrossing and they want one JUST LIKE THAT. This is difficult for lots of reasons but usually if I can sell a book hard enough to them they almost always come back loving it. This doesn’t always work but usually if I listen well enough and tell them I loved a book a lot they will go away happy and come back beaming.

I enjoy my job. A lot. Even my colleagues sometimes tell me that I “like book A LOT. Like, A LOT.” (let’s be real  here: I haven’t read all the books and there will always be people smarter and people who are more well read than me). I love hearing it and I really do love books. The problem for me though is when I read a book I really love and I don’t know how to get out of that haze. You know the haze. The just-read-a-novel-that-challenged-me-and-now-I-only-want-to-read-a-book-that-will-give-me-that-reading-high haze. It’s the haze we all go through when we love a book so thoroughly, when we live with a book and learn from a book, that we never ever want to read another book because…what if it isn’t AS good as that book? We will lose that “so in love never break up with me” feeling we had with the last book we read.

Somehow, and I know we’ve all been there, this book so engulfs us that we suddenly find ourselves uninterested in reading at all. I know we’ve all been there because it happened to me recently. I’ve become that patron who can’t decide on what to read, decides she wants to read all the books, takes home six or seven and then ends up owing like $10 in late fees because she keeps telling herself to avoid the library at all cost to save embarrassment from the librarians that she “read” six books in three weeks when in reality she just watched all of True Blood for the second time. The shame!

Here’s my advice: Just do it. Just pick up the next book on your to-read shelf and read. Even if this isn’t your problem and you’re just full of excuses why you can’t pick up another book: just do it. Just do it! Just. Do. It. If you want to be a better reader or you want to find another gem in the wide world of published texts you have to read. In order to be a reader you have to read and being in love with a book and not wanting to sully its memory of how great you felt while reading it isn’t the right way to love books. Not all books will be homeruns but there are lots of books worth reading. If you’re having an especially hard time like I have been having give yourself 50 pages. 50 pages to like the book or you’d done. Then forgive yourself for not finishing a book. Life is too short to invest your precious time on a book that 50 or 100 pages into it you know you are probably going to keep hating. We’ve all abandoned books and guess what? Those books will hopefully still be there if we are ever ready for them again.

I know this honeymoon period is great. You’re still all “that book just got me.” And “Book, you were so amazing. How did I live my life before I had you?” Don’t worry: You can re-read it next year.