Pages: “The Magicians”

I really wanted to like The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, I really didmagicians jacket. But now that I’ve slogged through it, I’m not sure if I did. The first half of the book drew me in completely; instead of going to a traditional college, Quentin is unexpectedly whisked away to Brakebills, an exclusive college for the magically inclined — Hogwarts for grownups, albeit darker. Quentin’s continued fascination with the Fillory books from his childhood lured me along with the promise of Fillory fiction within fiction. But once Quentin and company move into the real world and then out of it again, Grossman lost control of the story. He alternately plods along in maddeningly repetitive detail about who has slept with whom and how much booze is consumed as Quentin and the gang sit around, boring the reader with their navel-gazing ennui. Then the action careens off, only to sputter again in upstate New York and then the Nietherworlds before careening off into a comic-book cliche of a climax. And then the denouement left me thinking, “What the heck was THAT?!?!”

My biggest frustration, however, was Quentin himself and a disturbing trend in American fiction. Just what IS the deal with wimpy, narcissistic male protagonists? Are anti-heroes like Quentin supposed to pass for complicated, three-dimensional characters? Or is that as close as male authors can get to concocting sensitive new age males? I’m so done with that. And all of the high-falutin’ talk in literary circles about how a character simply must develop over the narrative arc? Forget it here, unless you can count what happens to Quentin. Yet at the end he’s still bored, still self-centered, still navel-gazing.  Give me Jamie Fraser any day, people! At least he’s not a wuss!

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