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Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, came to my local independent bookstore, Malaprops, a couple of weeks ago to promote the paperback release of his book. I had just finished reading and enjoying it, so I headed out to see what he had to say.
He read us part of a short story set in the world of The Magicians and based around a sort of “World of Warcraft set in the real world” kind of game. He said the story is online, but I can’t find it. It might help if I could remember the name of it. If you know what I’m talking about and you know the link, let me know, please.
Before he started reading, he explained to us that he had quickly printed off a copy of the story before catching his plane and he hadn’t realized that his wife had “recycled” some paper from their six-year-old daughter’s birthday party into the printer. Holding up a sheet of paper, he explained, “When you see beg, wag your tail or sit, you don’t actually have to do those things.” I caught myself watching to see what was going to rotate up next!
He is working on a sequel, and it is set to be published next year, according to his website.
He told us that he wrote the scene with The Beast first, I believe as long ago as 1996 or ’97. Don’t quote me on that one. He said that scene was influenced by Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. He also joked about how if he had finished the book then, maybe he could be the one cashing in on the Harry Potter craze! He wrote that scene right around the first US publication of Harry Potter.
Of course we asked about a movie. He said that he is in “interminable talks” about an adaptation for the screen. Given his choice, he would like to see it as a tv mini-series. He cited his love of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and how disappointed he was in the movie but how well the mini-series captured the book.
He says he purposefully left out a few of the elements that are so prevalent in the kind of fantasy he writes. There is no wise father figure. He just wanted to see how Quentin would get along without one. He also left out a bad guy and teachers who spend a lot of time teaching the ethics of magic.
Let me preface this next bit by saying that I did not feel like Grossman was knocking Harry Potter at all. In fact, read blog post one and blog post two about the time he met J. K. Rowling, as well as his review of The Deathly Hallows and you will find a sincere fan. I especially like the last paragraph of his review. Anyway, what he said was that he wanted to write about a main character who ends up in this magical world when he’s been reading fantasy all his life. He said that if he had been living under the stairs with a family that hated him, he would have been reading fantasy all the time. He wanted to play with that idea a little bit, so he wrote it into The Magicians.
Those were the highlights. We all shuffled into line, and Lev Grossman was pretty chatty as he signed for us. I, of course, pulled my “Hi, how are you?….Thanks!” routine. But I still got my book signed!