Monday, August 17, 2009

A few words from Lev Grossman

I reviewed The Magicians by Lev Grossman a couple weeks ago. I was so impressed with the book that I fired off a few questions (via email) to Mr. Grossman. He was more than kind in taking the time to respond. Read below to find out a little more about Lev and The Magicians.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Lev Grossman. I’m 40. I live in Brooklyn. I have a daughter, Lily, who’s 5. By day I work as the book critic for Time magazine.

While reading The Magicians, I couldn't decide if you were paying homage to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis or thumbing your nose while winking at them. Maybe a bit of both?
Both! Definitely both. That’s the great thing about novels, you don’t have to choose. I love Rowling and Lewis both, but it would be boring for everybody if I wrote just like them. (Which I couldn’t do anyway, if I tried.) So instead I wrote about some of the same things they did, but from a different place, with a different take.

How did The Magicians come to be?
Slowly. I’ve spent my whole life reading fantasy, which I suppose was a way of getting ready to write The Magicians. I took the first notes for it in 1996. I was inspired by Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea -- the chapters set at the magic school on Roke. Then I put it aside again. I wasn’t ready yet.

Then in 2004 a few different things happened. I read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and my head pretty much exploded. Also I had a mid-life crisis (divorce, etc.) I had been planning to write a more conventional novel, but I threw it away. The fantasy part of me wouldn’t be quiet anymore. Fantasy was the only way I could think of to talk about what was going on with my real life.

Which authors have inspired you?
On the fantasy side: Lewis and Rowling, obviously, but also TH White, Fritz Leiber, and Larry Niven. And of course Susanna Clarke.

On the literary side: Evelyn Waugh (especially Brideshead Revisited), Donna Tartt (especially The Secret History), and Jonathan Franzen. While I was writing The Magicians I kept a copy of The Corrections on one side of my desk, and a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on the other.

What are you reading right now?
I read for a living, so I’m always reading a bunch of different books at once. Right now I’m in the middle of Iain Banks’ Transition (which I’m loving), Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist (which I wished I were loving but am not particularly yet) and E.L Doctorow’s Homer & Langley (too soon to tell). Also -- not for work, but when I can make time for it -- I’m reading I Remember the Future, a collection of stories by an old friend of mine, Michael Burstein (which I am loving).

Will you be traveling the country to talk about and sign copies of The Magicians?
Yes! New York, Boston, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Maybe more places, if people want. Come see me! I am an enthusiastic but somewhat spazzy public speaker, and I wave my arms around too much. But I’m doing my best.

For more information about The Magicians and Lev Grossman, visit

No comments: