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Manuscripts

Abstract

I’m not an especially emotional being. But when I first read The Magicians, I was furious. I spent thirty minutes trying to explain my anger to my family and to my best friend. I felt that Lev Grossman had soiled Narnia, the most precious world I’d ever known, with a protagonist, Quentin, who was a self-absorbed ass. My advisor, who had recommended the series to me, suggested that perhaps it was an homage rather than a deconstruction, that Lev Grossman loved this world as much as I did and wanted to work with it in a wholly new way. At the time I couldn’t have disagreed more because I, like Quentin, could not see past my own perspective.

But the reality of Quentin’s world is so much more than his own selfishness and depression. When I say I’m not especially emotional, it’s only to illustrate how powerfully consuming these books are, because once I got over my initial anger I couldn’t put a stopper in my excitement and enjoyment. In The Magicians and its sequels Lev Grossman created a world rich with varied and nuanced characters, all of whom could have been people I’ve known. And these characters are the most special thing about The Magicians; they are real, and true, and they screw up their lives terribly. They learn, and move on, and grow up. In this series Lev Grossman has done what I think every writer sets out to do: to create an emotional reaction in their reader. I have felt raging anger towards these books, but I have also been consumed by love in a way that no other book series has accomplished. I have seen a terrifying reflection of myself in each of the main characters, and I have been completely won over despite my desperate attempts at detachment.

Lev Grossman has done other things, of course. He’s written other novels, he’s the book critic for Time magazine, and he was the first journalist to make a call on an iPhone. He even got to be a consultant and make a cameo appearance in the television adaptation of The Magicians. But for me, the most important thing he’s done is this series. Magic doesn’t come from dead languages and complicated hand motions. It comes from the ability to imagine the inner life of someone else. It comes from empathy.

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