Showing posts with label Harry Potter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harry Potter. Show all posts

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Worthy Read: The Magicians & The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Here's a worthy read that has been on my mind lately: Lev Grossman's The Magicians and the sequel, The Magician King.  The third novel is due out this summer.  


Lev Grossman has created a world both familiar and fresh.  The novel is, of course, about magic - but only like Harry Potter in the most shadowy sense.  Instead of a boarding school for young wizards, these are decidedly adult novels - complete with salty language that would make Ron Weasley blush - about a young man named Quentin Coldwater who is admitted to an obscure American college called Brakebills to hone his magical skills.  The funny name is where the similarity to Hogwarts ends.   Quentin is a bit of a nerd, obsessed since childhood with the Narnia-like books of children's adventures set in a magical land called Fillory.  When he finds himself at Brakebills, he realizes that living in a magical world doesn't suddenly make things easier or better.  Like any kid in college, he makes new friends, falls in love, and makes a ton of mistakes - some arrogant, some innocent, some reckless.  Quentin's journey I find is so true to the post-college experience - that what we learn in class or inside the college walls with our friends cannot ever fully prepare you for the real world.  It is even more true for a magically dangerous world.  So even when Quentin and his friends do finally stumble upon Fillory, it isn't the paradise that he always imagined.  In fact, it might be more sinister than he handle.  


The Magician King is a powerful sequel, broaching the question of what happens after one has become king over a magical land.  Fillory has lost its potency, and we slowly learn the story of Quentin's bitter and emotionally scarred friend Julia, who was rejected by Brakebills and fought and suffered tremendously to learn magic on her own.  Quentin is still coping with the horrors he encountered in the first novel - of disappointments with Fillory, of needing to find out who he is in this aftermath.  The Magician King is about the consequences of living a magical life and whether it is worth the sacrifice.

You should read The Magicians and The Magician King
       ... if you enjoy crisp, sarcastic and hilarious prose.  
       ... if you're search for a fresh, original and terrifying story.
       ... if you want a story with vivid individuals for characters, none of them perfect, but (irritatingly) human  and heart-breaking.
       ... if you have trouble letting go of Narnia, Neverland or Middle Earth. 

But, to harken back to Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts on Ms. Rowling (Jillian)

Today is the day J.K. Rowling's first novel since Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy, is/will be released to the public.  As a writer about to enter into the publishing world, my little novel clutched hopefully to my chest, I can't help but admire Ms. Rowling's quest to continuing writing in spite of all the mounting pressure.  Will it be as good as Harry Potter? Will she be able to successfully separate herself from the wizarding world?  Can she handle it?  I don't have the answers to those questions, because I'm not her, but I believe she is doing a very brave, intrepid thing, breaking herself away from the creative world that brought her so much success and trying her hand at something new, a totally different kind of story.  I wish her the absolute best.

Allan Massie of the Daily Telegraph has an interesting blogpost this morning on Ms. Rowling, asking: how do you deal with a book by an author who has achieved such a phenomenal success as Harry Potter?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Arguing (pleasantly) with the Prince of Wales (Jillian)

This week marks the premier of the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Naturally, there has been quite the buzz about it, as Harry has been in our literary world for years now and some of us were lucky enough to have grown up with him. I, like so many others, read the final novel in two days and cried for Dobby and so many others. Harry Potter is not exactly classic, and is flawed in certain ways - not entirely a perfect read, but honestly, what is? The magic of Harry was that he got so many young (and old) ones to read and enjoy reading.

Which brings me to commentary this week. Charles, the Prince of Wales, remarked this week that the end of Harry Potter is completely awful for all of those young readers. Now, I don't really think that this was a negative comment, but I want to argue a bit with him. Yes, it is sad that the series is ended, and that there are no more books to gobble up. But that has been the case for a number of years. With the end of the series comes an opportunity to move on to something new... to find pleasure reading something as equally exciting that takes one in new directions. Harry has grown up. I think that means we readers can, too. Not that we should let go of him and never look back, but appreciate what we've learned from him by enriching our experiences with other stories.

The end of a series is actually another beginning. And that in itself is a scintillating experience. So no, your Highness. The end of Harry is not an "awful" thing.


This is similar to my case for why American television stinks. If you've heard me yammer from this soap box, please ignore me. I'll keep it brief. '

We Americans enjoy procedural: crime dramas and who-dunnits that are built around a recurring, near-permanent cast. Not all of them are bad. But they follow a very irritating pattern. Once a show catches fire and popularity, the general consensus is that they remain on the air indefinitely - as cash cows. But because so many of these shows are not character-concetric, the longer they last on air, the staler they get. Oh, yes, the characters grow, but by committee and network discretion... not from the writers' instincts.

Again, not all shows are like this. But shows are stories at heart, and they are organic. Therefore, trying to keep them around does not guarantee they will resonate the same way. Take The Office, which began to lose its witty energy two years ago, but is still on the air. And House, which, in my opinion, has become boring.

This has come to mind after watching the British (note that: BRITISH) show Life on Mars. It lasted two seasons and about 15 episodes. Because it closely, evenly, carefully follows the story of the principal character Sam Tyler as he struggles to find out why and how he woke up as a detective inspector in 1973, the story ends the way it's supposed to. (I won't spoil anything for you.) Yes, it's a "crime drama", but that is merely the backdrop for a very human experience. The fact that the writers who created Life on Mars ended it of their own accord is brilliant to me. They listened to the story - not to plaintive whining of greedy executives or rabid fans - and that is remarkable in this age.

Follow the story. If the story ends, find another one. There are plenty lying in wait!


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