From the start, Lev Grossman, the author of The Magicians was disarmingly awkward.
Well, not from the start. He eased into it, if such a thing is even possible. But still, it was disarming. I’d spent the previous night absorbing the first 100 pages of Grossman’s first fantasy novel and feeling dwarfed by it’s prose. It was real, familiar, and bold, and it almost immediately made me think that I should’ve written something as sharp of wit. A look at his website didn’t improve matters; it was a clean, grey slab of modern design, solidly professional. So I expected someone stark. Someone completely calculated.
And that’s not at all what I got. Clean cut and fashionable in his blazer / Justice League T-shirt combo, Grossman walked onto the stage and gave us a quick outline of the night that included a 30 second awkward pause after his reading.
It made me feel better. A lot better. This was my first venture in my initiative to hear as many fantasy authors speak as I could, and I hadn’t been excited to find a group of peers who weren’t peers at all. Instead I found someone I could talk to.
Even though, again, I was completely awkward when the chance arose.
“Awesome shirt. Where’d you get it?”
“Online.” I offered no more than that. Aside from an intimidated smile. This is the problem with meeting celebrities I actually admire; I’m sure I’d be comfortable talking to Tori Spelling for hours. Well… not really. But you understand. It was depressing.
But I still got a lot out of the night. If unintentionally, Lev Grossman’s talk about his struggles with his career after college, a major theme in The Magicians, was incredibly inspiring. I told him as much in one of the fleeting moments of lucidity I had when I was directly in front of him. It’s harder than people think, being a writer. Especially an aspiring one. You spend so much time on your own, working on a project that you know might fail, despite how incredibly confident you are about it. You miss events, cancel hanging out with friends, forfeit job opportunities. You watch those friends advance their careers just by going to work. And all the while, you convince yourself that it’s probably easier for other writers. Perhaps others graduated from Columbia, landed a job in publishing, and pumped out their first novels at the same time.
But then you find out that maybe they didn’t. It took Lev Grossman four years to get The Magicians published. And this was after trying to figure out what to do with a degree in Literature for a long time. He’s 35 now. I’m 28. Suddenly, getting published wasn’t something I was struggling to achieve. It became something I’m doing.
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians marries fantasy and reality in a way that shows us the absurd beauty and horror of both. If you haven’t read The Magicians, definitely do so. It will not disappoint, especially after the story repeatedly veers away from being what you expect.