FAQ's About 'The Magicians,' a Fantasy Novel for Adults

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If you're just starting The Magicians, the 1book140 July selection, here's a(n) FAQ. Feel free to ask more questions in comments if you've got 'em. Or on Twitter. I'll be there.

Who the hell are you?
Just some guy who wrote a book. By day I work as the book critic at Time magazine. I have a bio here, but it's not that interesting.

Why did you write The Magicians?
I wrote it because I love fantasy, especially young-adult fantasy: Narnia, Harry Potter, Tolkien, His Dark Materials, Earthsea, Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, Piers Anthony, T.H. White, etc. etc. etc. And I wanted to read a story like that—a story about someone who discovers he has power he didn't know he had, someone who finds his way into a secret magical world—but written for adults, in "literary" language (whatever that is), with all the sex and drinking and other complicated adult realities that young adult authors have to leave out.

Why can't people tickle themselves?
I don't know. I've never understood that.

What is the deal with Quentin?
He's the hero of the book. But he's not very heroic, at least not at the beginning. He's got a lot of growing up to do. The original question that gave rise to Quentin was, what if Harry Potter were a big fantasy nerd? I always thought it was weird that nobody at Hogwarts seemed to have read Narnia, or at least The Books of Magic—you'd think they'd talk about classic fantasy all the time, and compare their lives to the fictions they'd read. But no. I'm not even sure novels exist in the Potterverse. Hence Quentin.

Is Quentin supposed to be you?
I was a lot like Quentin when I was 17. Except not as tall and not as good at math.

Is The Magicians fantasy or meta-fantasy or literary fiction or what is it?
It's a fantasy novel and it's a book about fantasy. One of the big inspirations for The Magicians was Watchmen, which is (obvs) a great superhero story, but it also asks a lot of meta-type questions about what it would mean to be a superhero. The Magicians is a bit like that—it works (or it's supposed to) as a straight-up story about magic and secret worlds. But it also draws on a lot of non-fantasy literary works—Proust, Woolf, Waugh, Joyce, Franzen—and it asks some serious meta-level questions about magic. Like: what would it really feel like to do magic? What kinds of people would do it, and what would they do with it, if there were no Sauron or Voldemort trying to take over the world?

And once they started doing magic, what would doing magic do to them?

This post originally appeared on 1blog140.

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Lev Grossman is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels The Magicians and The Magician King. He is also the book critic for Time magazine.

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