Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

This may be incredibly pathetic and just a smidgen anti-feminist, but if there was one thing I could choose to be right now, it would be the Doctor's Companion. The possibility of this was the only thing that made me okay with applying for retail jobs during my long post-college employment drought. I had a vision of a nice British man in a duster whisking me off to the stars in his spaceship. Of course, the problem with being the companion is how replaceable you are. The Universe opens up to you, but only for a little while. Then you are left behind and everything else is so utterly ordinary.

The Magicians reminds me of being the Doctor's Companion. In it, an ordinary overachiever set for the Ivy League and a corporate career is recruited by Brakebills, a college to train magicians. The majority of the book occurs while Quentin Clearwater is in school. Once he graduates, he is flung back to earth as ungracefully as any Companion. He gets lazy, drinks, puts off plans and the future. Fortunately, though, the magic comes back into play in the form of a quest. Quentin thinks this is the thing that will change his life forever, fix everything and put it back on track.

The character of Quentin is obviously one of those who will never be happy. He thinks Brakebills will make him happier than Brooklyn, he thinks his relationship with Alice will make him happier, he thinks the quest will make him happier. Ultimately, you're still you wherever you go. You can't choose to be happy, but you can choose to be miserable.

I thought this book would be Harry Potter in college. In a lot of ways, it was that. There were adult situations all over the place. The students had sex and drank like fishies. Harry Potter also never had so much angst. They never showed the time between when the kids left Hogwarts and the prologue where they were all grown up. Maybe The Magicians is what we would have seen.

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