At least what one can say of Lev Grossman's completion to his Magician's Trilogy is that it is finally clear what in the world he was trying to do witAt least what one can say of Lev Grossman's completion to his Magician's Trilogy is that it is finally clear what in the world he was trying to do with his characters all along. That is not to say he does it well, but at least he does it with a degree of transparency that lets the reader in on his clearly personally gratifying retro-taxonomy of the fantasy genre. Much has been said of what Grossman is up to in the fantasy space. Is he continuing his role as literary critic, this time as meta-critic -- pointing out the flaws as protagonist rather than commentator? Or is he reveling in homages to his betters: Rowling, Tolkien, Lewis and the like? I suspect has been doing some of both, most recognizable in Land, the last and best tale in his traversal of Quentin Coldwater and Co. At times he seems to love the rich imagery and possibility of the phantasmagoric, pushing it farther than some of the archetypes have been pushed in the past, bringing into a healthy R-rating at times, making sure that you are willing to believe that while others only told fantasy stories, his in fact are real. But there are clearly other times where his disdain for the chosen genre shines through. This is most vivid in the first two novels where by the third he seems to finally having a little fun and is not so goddamn morose about the whole thing. And this, likely, why The Magician's Land is really the only enjoyable member of the trilogy and at least a small payoff from the trudging experience of reading the first two. In the finale we find our heroes moving out of the existential woes of the their 20s and into the adulthood of their 30s. People are having babies. Risks start to have real teeth. The bodies are not the physical specimens they once were. There is not so very much rampant sex. In aging his melodramatic center, Quentin, Grossman gives us a point of reference for the nearly decade of narcissistic whining we've seen up to the point. Is it possible that Quentin's need for raging self-importance could reprieve? Could we all get a rest from his quest to be the center of the universe? In fact we do. And in fact this is perhaps the point. The point is that fantasy and comic books and all the genre-forms that are now the center of the pop culture world are generally formatted to tell hero's tale and to make us believe that we are all really special deep inside. Grossman has spent two painstaking novels questioning the special-ness of the well-endowed (and by nature the special-ness of those of us with no magic abilities). He reminds us that our quests are mostly self-aggrandizing. Our dreams are mostly ego-trips and our aspirations of greatness mostly reactions to the fact that our father's didn't love us very well. Grossman, in his final Magician's book, hauls out all the old tropes and cliches, dances upon them, raises them in a funeral pyre and pull us through the eye of the needle on every one, hoping that one more pass through these old forms might finally redeem all us sinners. Does he achieve his aim? I will leave that for you to decide. But to my taste, he does enough of it to achieve something truly unique and almost remarkable in moments. If you are willing to go on Grossman's ride, you may just be--as I unexpectedly was--glad you did....more
It pains me to say that this is the worst book I've read this year. It pains me because I worked for Greg Hawkins many years ago and loved his insightIt pains me to say that this is the worst book I've read this year. It pains me because I worked for Greg Hawkins many years ago and loved his insight, his heart and his perspective on so many things. I know this book by reputation and am a little late the party in reading it. What is wrong with this book is it's complete inability to address the assumptions and biases that created the sociological work behind it. Hawkins and Parkinson speak with near certainty about the implications and results of the REVEAL study and yet show no academic humility about the way they ask the questions or the options they gave responders. The findings of the Reveal study and the sadly simplistic way that they present spiritual maturation are the result of a rigid set of 20th century Americanized Christian definitions that no church father would recognize. Their heart in it is deep and real, and for that I am grateful. They lead evangelical pastors to the power of data to overcome confirmation bias and this is important. But the study and the accompanying book draw little to nothing from the broader transformational material on how growth happens, a body of knowledge that Western Evanglicalism desperately needs if it's ever going to face its own golden calves....more
I had to work hard to get through The Magicians, the predecessor to this book. But there was enough there and such positive outside reviews to get meI had to work hard to get through The Magicians, the predecessor to this book. But there was enough there and such positive outside reviews to get me to give Mr. Grossman another chance. I'm still convinced that a career in literary criticism does not make one a writer, much less a great story-teller. But what I will say is that Grossman, who steals liberally from writers and ideas better than him (Rowling, Lewis, Tolkein among others), his homage to the story structure of the Godfather II in this book was wildly satisfying.
Knowing the whole time that we are on a collision course between the future and the past that made the future possible made this quite the page turner. Hoping that The Magician's Land completes the trilogy in ways that are satisfying and original....more
What to say of Mrs. Dalloway? It is strange to have read it after being so familiar with the modern reworking of it in "The Hours." I kept seeing theWhat to say of Mrs. Dalloway? It is strange to have read it after being so familiar with the modern reworking of it in "The Hours." I kept seeing the ties between them everywhere, which I can only expect pulled me distractedly from Ms. Woolf's infamous languid and wandering prose. I can see that this book was revolutionary for its time. Existentialist in it's tone, anti-establishment yet rich in cultural appreciation and metaphor. It is an Anglophile's book, all while being hypercritical of the Empire all the same. Mrs. Dalloway touches of the edges of hyper-controversial issues of her day: divorce, class war, suicide and even dawdling on the edge of lesbianism. It's no wonder she is the bastion of feminism that she is to this day. Clarissa is--in her own way--a sad figure of her times, a product of the makings around her, and yet she flirts with the possibility of feminine power in way that would have been impossible to imagine in her time. Her story begins with it, of course. When Mrs. Dalloway, overflowing with self-actualization decides to buy the flowers herself....more
Started off really interesting and then Bourdain's notorious ego takes over. You get story after story after story of him wizarding in the kitchen andStarted off really interesting and then Bourdain's notorious ego takes over. You get story after story after story of him wizarding in the kitchen and all his cool-kid slang to show that he's rough around the edges. It got tiresome... needless to say. All that mentioned, I will say this: I will never eat seafood on a brunch menu again. Thank you, Anthony, for that....more