Remember last week when I mentioned I was excited to start reading Lev Grossman's new novel, The Magicans? Well, I only made it one-third of the way through before putting it down. It wasn't that I didn't like the book. While I was reading it, I actually enjoyed it a lot. But the second I set it down to do anything else, it completely left my mind. It wasn't calling to me from the table to be picked back up again, which is a pretty important part of reading.
I have a few theories about why the book wasn't ultimately doing it for me. I think these reasons are fairly universal in a lot of ways. They describe the reasons why I, and maybe you too, can't finish certain books. Here they are, in no particular order:
1) The writing wasn't anything special. The writing snob in me has become more and more interested in good prose the last few years. A lot of the books I liked best this year have been ones where the writer's prose has completely grabbed me. Grossman just doesn't have IT. The story was extremely imaginative. The writing wasn't. Grossman is obviously highly educated and loves literature, and I think sometimes both those things can be a negative when it comes to having an interesting writing voice. And I think that bothered me more than I care to admit.
2) The characters are kinda assholes. As a "serious" reader, I like to think that I don't have to like characters in order to love reading about them. Unfortunately, that concept wasn't working for me this time around. Almost every single character reminded me of the kind of person I really dislike both in the real world and in literature as a whole (overly confident know-it-alls, divas in training, the smart shy girl who is only shy the way girls in books are, etc).
3) It reminded me of my life a little too much. At first, this was one of the things I loved about the book. Even though it was about people going to college to learn magic, it more closely understood the actual feelings involved in going to college than any other book I've read. The main character, ridiculously intelligent and confident that he's always the smartest guy in the room, suddenly finds himself in a place where everyone is like that. They might even be better than him. This wraps up my first year college experience pretty nicely (insert being an experienced writer/reader for being really smart). But as the book continues and becomes more about emotional and academic failures, the more it began to get to me in a bad way. It's kind of the last thing I wanted to read while filling out grad school applications and working my minimum-wage, part-time job.
I wouldn't be surprised at all if I actually go back and finish this book in the next year. But right now, it's suffering from Wrong Place, Wrong Time Syndrome. The story is very imaginative and Grossman understands the weirdness of being between childhood and adulthood extremely well, but in the end, the book just wasn't doing it for me. Sorry.
I will still be posting in the next weeks with the usual Poems of the Week and lists and whatnot, but I am not picking up anything to read until my grad school apps are completely finished in the next two weeks, so there won't be any new reviews. I apologize.