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Magical mystery tour

Posted by Jim Concannon  August 9, 2009 04:34 PM

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Harry Potter is reality.
In Hollywood, producers have long embraced the primacy of ‘‘high concept,’’ the guideline whereby a film project’s plot must be boiled down to a few choice words. If the movie’s premise requires too much explanation, producers believe, it will fail with the public, lose money, and so shouldn’t be made.
Lev Grossman (above) has no such problem. Grossman is a Lexington native and Harvard graduate who is now the book critic for Time magazine. He also has written three novels, the latest being ‘‘The Magicians.’’ In it, a Brooklyn high school student named Quentin Coldwater, who’s perhaps too devoted to a childhood fantasy series about the enchanted land of Fillory, is admitted to a prestigious academy to study magic. After arrival, he learns that Fillory actually exists (hence our high concept). Soon he and his friends are called upon to rescue it from evil forces in a climactic battle. Hence, Harry Potter is reality.
Grossman’s novel combines plot and character elements often used by the alphabet soup of great fantasy writers, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling. (L. Grossman, anyone?) Grossman’s ficticious world particularly mirrors Lewis’s fantasy land of Narnia, a connection he is happy to admit. Asked by an interviewer if Fillory was based on Narnia, he said: ‘‘Of course, very much so. Though ‘based on’ — not exactly the words I would use. I think there’s a level on which ‘The Magicians’ is reacting to C.S. Lewis’s work, honoring it but also critiquing it — like [fantasy writer Phillip] Pullman did in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy.’’
Grossman also sees parallels between Harvard, which developed myriad traditions since its founding in 1636, and Brakehills, his magic academcy. ‘‘You know, I didn’t think about this until I was several drafts into ‘The Magicians.’ But of course, obviously, the Brakebills parts are connected to the experience of going to Harvard, both of them being hyper-exclusive educational institutions.’’
Grossman will discuss his book and the fantasy world he created twice this Thursday, Aug. 13, first at 1 p.m. at Borders Downtown Crossing, and then at 6 p.m., at the Boston Public Library, Copley Square.

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