Our Author Takeover for July comes from Aisha Bushby, a debut author and Potterhead whose short story “Marionette Girl” is published next month in “A Change Is Gonna Come” from Stripes. #ChangeBook is an anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change.
Published in a series of magazine issues in 1868-69, this is one of the masterpieces by the author of “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov”. It made me laugh a great deal, but it is not a comedy. Its climax is mysterious and chilling, but it is not a thriller. Dickensian in its large cast of vividly colorful characters and satire on the society of its time, it is not quite a picaresque. Tragic to a truly disturbing degree, it is too subtle and complex to make grand opera, too often given to immensely long talky scenes, featuring too many characters, to translate well into film—though the attempt has often been made to adapt it for stage or screen. It’s a great novel in which a sensitive reader can feel himself totally immersed, only to be shocked out of “willing suspension of disbelief” when its author breaks the fourth wall and begins commenting on his characters as fictional creations. Though it may come as a surprise to those of us who grew up watching a copy of the novel collecting dust in a reverential spot on our parents’ bookshelf, looking so serious and sophisticated that we could hardly imagine trying to read it, it happens to be a vastly entertaining novel. Once you read it, you will not forget it.
“The Magicians” introduced us to Quentin Coldwater, a young American whose heart belongs in a Narnia-like world of juvenile fantasy novels called Fillory. When Quentin gets into an exclusive school called Brakebills (think: a college-level Hogwarts in upstate New York), he learns the dangerous art magic, then joins several of his buddies on a journey that takes them to the very real world of Fillory. The chapters of “The Magician King” alternate between two storylines.
The Hardscrabble children are (let’s face it) strange. Elder brother Otto never takes off the scarf he has worn since their mother disappeared, and speaks only in a private sign language understood only by his siblings. Youngest child Max is a walking encyclopedia with a head for heights. And in the middle is Lucia, the narrator (though she pretends to be anonymous), scared and vulnerable and mouthy and fiercely protective of her family.