The Art of Magic in Fiction: An Interview with Lev Grossman

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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9 Responses

  1. zic says:

    Nice. I’ve been looking for a new fantasy to read. Loved “Jonathan Strange,” in part because of the pacing. But I re-read “Pride and Prejudice” every year, too.

    Just finished re-reading most of Patricia McKillip’s work; another under-appreciated writer with an amazing grasp of magic.

    And I do agree — the magic just behind a door makes for a more personal experience.Report

  2. Kyle Cupp says:

    Harry always knows what to do with his magic. He has to defeat the forces of evil. For Quentin the problem is more complicated. There is no great personification of evil in his life. He’s all powered up with no one to fight. So the story becomes less about using magic to defeat the evil one, and more about trying to figure out what the hell magic is for.

    That’s a very interesting point; it leaves me wondering if the temptation to demonize, to see others as a great personification of evil, arises from a desire for a less complicated world. My inclination is to say yes. The rhetoric that often accompanies such demonization, in our political arena, for example, speaks of the world in very epic fantasy terms, with more references to religion than to magic, granted, but nonetheless as a world filled with strangers, gods, and monsters and where the battle lines are clearly drawn.

    Good interview.Report

  3. William Brafford says:

    Lev Grossman’s guaranteed himself another reader (me) with this interview. Good questions, too.Report

  4. A.R.Yngve says:

    One thing I’ve never accepted about fans’ demands on fantasy literature, is when they insist it should “comfort” the reader, be predictable, offer only familiar stories… in short, be anything but surprising.

    I mean, if there was a world where magic works, wouldn’t the knowledge of that be fundamentally unsettling — terrifying, even? Like living in a nightmare, actually. In the real world, the common trait of cultures which truly believe in magic is that people are paranoid about becoming the victims of curses and black magic.

    “Magic makes too many wishes come true.” I agree. (Thematic similarity: Agent smith in THE MATRIX points out that The Matrix 1.0 had to be scrapped because people found it too perfect.)Report

  5. Scott in AL says:

    E.D. Great interview. This is the kind of stuff that keeps TLoOG in my feedreader. I’ve already downloaded samples of The Magicians as well as Ms. Clark’s book to my kindle. Maybe I can knock one out during the long holiday. Thanks.Report

  6. E.D. Kain says:

    Thanks everyone. Hope anyone who reads this interview and then goes and gets the book enjoys it. And totally read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell also.Report

  7. Will says:

    This is one of the better interviews we’ve put up, methinks. Nice work, Erik.Report