Speaking of Gnostic Gnarnians…

Have any of you read The Magicians/The Magician King by Lev Grossman?

I’m starting to see people talking about the third one coming out, and it occurred to me that I haven’t seen much discussion of it by actual magicians at all. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places (is there a way to filter Goodreads by relevance to my personal interest? No? I didn’t think so.) or maybe I don’t know enough magic practitioners who are influenced by fiction…

Both of the magical systems we’re presented with in the books, Brakebills and Julie’s freelance training, are eclectic. Brakebills seems to have codified its bits and pieces into a system, but it’s still a system that seems to require a dozen or so dead languages.

After the jump are my original thoughts on The Magician King from when I finished it a year ago.

It is three in the goddamn morning. I have to be up for work today. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up all night with a book.

Also I still hate Quentin. He suffers from an amazing case of author disconnect, where the narration keeps telling us things about him that don’t quite seem true.

I feel like I know way more about Lev Grossman’s issues with women than I ever wanted to. Powerful women are inhuman, you know. It’s very taoist-sex-magic when you think about it.

As disappointed as I was with the ending of the first one, once I started this one I couldn’t stop. Again.

And I was enjoying it, the more of the Julia chapters than the Quentin ones, right up until the point where Pouncy explains that their Big Sekrit is… comparative mythology.

I mean, okay, in college I ran with the math nerds. Computer science nerds. Guys who could make numbers fellate them in all kinds of pornographic ways. And some of them were into magic, though none of them were quite as far around the bend as I was. None of them were, you know, majoring in that shit. But it wasn’t like they didn’t know it existed.

It’s a little like getting to the emotional climax of the movie Stigmata, where the big fucking secret is the goddamn Gospel of Thomas, which you can buy in Barnes and Noble. Or hell, the DaVinci Code, which you could unravel in fifteen minutes if you’d ever listened to a couple episodes of Coast to Coast AM.

I have no trouble believing that the self-selection the magicians in the book do – both at Brakebills and in Free Trader Beowulf – generally weeds out the religiously inclined. But the idea nobody had ever figured out that hey, maybe there’s something to this shit? Especially when there’s goddamn fairies and dragons running around?

I dunno. I think the only way this world continues to function for me is if there’s a third faction that’s religiously inclined and keeping their shit to themselves. A Celestial Chorus or Akashic Brotherhood to balance out all these Order of Hermes and Sons of Ether.

Also, you’d think with all the roleplaying references in the book, ONE of these fuckers would have played Mage, wouldn’t you?

I already have a Lady of the Underground. (Also, the tarasque was a running joke in my first D&D campaign.) Once again I’m let down in the clutch by these characters who are supposed to be so much smarter than me but end up in the same damn place where I am except they take like twelve times as long to get there because their patting themselves on the back the whole way.

I mean, okay, that’s not fair to Julia. And actually technically I’m older than her.

I hate these books so much. And I know I’ll read the third the day it comes out, if only to see how Quentin manages to fuck up some other chick’s life.

0 thoughts on “Speaking of Gnostic Gnarnians…

      1. Lost my first attempt at a reply. I’ll just say that I found Grossman’s effort to create an alternate realm, akin to Lewis’s Narnia, to be kind of sad, as well.

        Lots of people seem to think of Narnia as lacking a solidity or reality to it — as Tolkien’s world clearly has— but there’s a book out that helped me comprehend Narnia as a different kind of reality: the book is Planet Narnia,” which argues that the seven books each represent one of the planetary realms: LionWitchWardrobe being Jupiter, LastBattle being Saturn, and so on. In that light, Grossman’s realm in the first book always felt shadow-like, and not possessed of a deep reality. Even when I understood that Narnia was allegory, and even at its most frivolous, it was clear that their author had deep themes in mid.

  1. Yep, couldn’t put the first book down, but by the end I hated it too. Have not been able to get past all my stupid excuses for not buying the 2nd – maybe it’s just too spiritually expensive. Since you’ve named this “author disconnect”, you got me thinking that maybe it was intentionally done, that perhaps the author wanted to see if he could write something that people couldn’t put down even when they hated it. This makes me think of people I know who I really don’t like but still include in my life. Not bad, evil people doing me any great harm, just really irritating people whose values I don’t share. I think my pride prevents me from considering them worthy enough to bug me that much.

    1. From the way he talks about it on his blog, I think he was aiming for “realistically flawed” but not unlikeable. Trying not to judge him based on the impression that Quentin draws a lot on him.

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