As I mentioned in my last post, my most recent read has been The Magicians by Lev Grossman. This one has been on my “To Read” shelf for a while and it felt like a good time to get back to my favorite genre. My first instinct is to say, “I loved it! Go read it! Magic! Woot!”, but when I take a second to think before I speak (which I rarely do) I realize I didn’t completely love it. It took a long time to sort out my thoughts on this one, but check out my Goodreads review and let me know what you think.
I had planned to focus on my review in this post, but as I was reading I came across a passage that I really loved and decided to change my angle. As a person who loves language and words and reading and how these things can shape who we are, I love finding something written so eloquently that I find it can represent something larger than just the story being told. While reading The Magicians I found myself highlighting the entirety of Dean Fogg’s graduation speech. Here is an excerpt:
“‘Sometimes I wonder if man was really meant to discover magic,’ Fogg said expansively. ‘It doesn’t really make sense. It’s a little too perfect, don’t you think? If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so. Words and thoughts don’t change anything. Language and reality are kept strictly apart – reality is tough, unyielding stuff, and it doesn’t care what you think or feel or say about it. Or it shouldn’t .You deal with it and you get on with your life.’”
– okay true, big believer in just dealing with what life throws at you and then moving on to bigger and better things.
“‘Little children don’t know that. Magical thinking; that’s what Freud called it. Once we learn otherwise we cease to be children. The separation of word and thing is the essential fact on which our adult lives are founded.’”
– interesting, I would disagree with the idea what anyone completely needs to rid themselves of their inner child as they get older. I think having a little inner child makes you a better adult, or even just all around person.
“‘But somewhere in the heat of magic that boundary between word and thing ruptures. It cracks, and the one flows back into the other, and the two melt together and fuse. Language gets tangled up with the world it describes.’”
– and there we go, spot on, just substitute “magic” with “literature”; that’s the magic of books people!
He takes of divisive stand on the fact that words, in the form of wishes, really shouldn’t be able to change anything, but while Dean Fogg is saying that magic and “magic words” can be a bit dangerous, I actually saw a lot of positive in his speech.
One, language has a lot more power than he gives it credit for. Obviously, we can’t cast spells or wish things into being, but there is a lot to be said for the power of positive thought and communication. You can manifest some good shit in your life if you try hard enough! Good vibes attract more positivity to you. And if you don’t believe that, just look examples of negative language and communication we see in bullying cases around the world. Language can change a life, for better or worse, easily. I don’t think it’s possible for any human to be all positive all the time, but I do think that the introduction of positive language to a conversation, internal or external, is powerful.
Two, don’t you see how reading can be so easily substituted for magic here? Sure we can’t wish Narnia, Hogwarts, or Fillory into existence, but the words and the language used to create these magical places has truly blurred that line between fiction and reality. People can be truly changed by something they’ve read. Was there a book in your childhood that taught you a lesson you remember to this day? Those words changed you. Does Hogwarts have a special place in your heart because you could retreat there when you were challenged in the real world? So many people use fiction as a safe space and I think that is fantastic. Using your imagination makes you smarter and if it’s language that comforts you, I can think of a lot worse things you could be meddling in.
A lot of times as you grow up you lose all of your childhood like wonder or “magical thinking”, but I think it’s something to hold on to. As JK Rowling wrote, “words are our most inexhaustible form of magic”; use that magic to make your life better. That is what reading can do for anyone who picks up a book.