Tag Archives: favorite authors

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.


The Color Master by Aimee Bender

11 Sep

In college, undergrad, I had a professor who, after reading a project I was working on, recommended I read some of Aimee Bender’s short stories to get some ideas on form. From the moment I started reading “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” I was hooked. Who knew a short story could be so magical? So lovely? So full of truth even at its most outlandish. Certainly not me at 22. 

So I’ve followed Aimee Bender’s work and I have read everything I can get my hands on. When I was looking ahead at books to be published in the fall I almost cried from delight that Bender had a new book out. I couldn’t wait to read it! I was lucky enough to get an ARC from NetGalley.

Another lovely addition to the Aimee Bender library. After “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” it was hard to say if what I wanted to read was more short stories or more novels from this magical author. 2013 does seem to be the year of the short story so I’m glad that it was short stories Bender offers to us and I’m glad she chose these. A little bit of a departure from her myths and fables I love so much, many of these stories offer to us the myth and magic of real life. The magical situations we are placed in every day that we take for granted. “On a Saturday Afternoon” a woman asks two of her closest male friends to spend an afternoon doing whatever it is that she tells them to do. From here, Bender sticks to reality and in this story we are given a peeping tom’s view of what happens when two men are asked to do things they never thought they could do. In “Faceles” a boy is incapable of seeing faces and people, which is close to a reality that many people live with today (known has face blindness). Here we recognize how lost we are without being able to see the whole picture, how we cannot rely only our eyes to see the truth of what it happening in front of us.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a collection of short stories without some myth and magic. “The Color Master” is one of those stories I never want to end. A story I want to climb into and live with for awhile. “Tiger Mending” written after a painting (http://www.tonkonow.com/amycutler_8.html) by Amy Cutler is so vivid and so precise, it feels like a true story. My favorite is “Americca” a story about a family who starts to notice every day items being duplicated and left in their home–reverse robbed. 

These stories, and the others I have not mentioned, share themes of a failure to feel a sense of belonging, or the sense of loneliness and the sense of seeing what others, we think, cannot also see. Bender weaves, as if she were the Color Master, a string of the color blue and the image of the moon following us throughout many of the stories making the reader feel as though these stories were collections of narratives spoken to Bender in her dreams or, maybe our dreams. Bender shapes for us a world where facing our deepest fears or deepest desires turns out to be less dramatic than we hope and more profound in us when we accept that everything is going to be as okay as it can be. Here we learn that even in the extraordinary so many of us will react ordinarily, as if this sort of thing happens every day.

I suggest that if you haven’t started reading Aimee Bender’s work, you do now. Here is an excellent place to begin.