Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This Whole Lev Grossman Business

A couple of days ago I strode purposefully into the downtown branch of the Troy Public Library and reserved "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman.  The first book in a trilogy about something or other fantastical (I honestly don't know, exactly), it got mediocre reviews.  Mr. Grossman, undaunted, published his second book to better, but still not great reviews.  And then his third, recently, to high praise.  And, since it was always designed to be a trilogy, Mr. Grossman is on to other things (including, prolly, spending the money Hollywood will now throw at him).

I don't read much fantasy.  The Lord of the Rings rocked me so hard when I was twelve that I've read it once every five years or so since.  And others have cropped up, but I usually have other fish to fry, literarily speaking.

I did read the first three Harry Potter books because I couldn't believe how my daughter devoured them and I was curious.  The first three books were each about 350 pages; the rest of them were in the 800-1,000 page range and I decided that I wasn't that committed to young Potter.  But I must say, they were great books.  J.K. Rowling deserves everything lovely that's come her way.  I was very impressed.

I also read the Dark Material books, which were pretty cool.

Then came George Martin.  I'll spare you all the initials, but I do have two thoughts about The Game of Thrones (which, it should be noted, you either win or die):

First, get a fucking editor with some balls.  I've read all five of the GoT books and with the complete exception of the first and the partial exception of the second, these books would have been vastly improved by cutting, say, 150 or so pages.  My impression of books three and four was that the author was completely lost, and in lieu of finding himself he just turned the machine on and started typing extraneous stuff.  In certain circles this is called the James Michener syndrome.  A stronger editor might have saved the man from himself.

Maybe I'm wrong and he'll prove me so when the last book finally appears.  This presupposes that a 65 year old man will still be alive at 75 or 80 (which is a pretty fair timeframe for predicting the end of the series, based on his historical rate of production) and writing as sharply as he was in his fifties and early sixties.  The former seems likely enough -- I certainly hope so -- although my father used to tell me that everything over 75 was gravy.  It's the last part, the excellence of execution bit, that seems less likely, particularly given the monumental challenge he's presented himself.

Second, and this is easier said than done, don't start strong and then just peter out.  Which is how I would describe the five GoT books to date.  The first one was outstanding.  Honestly.  And the second one was good.  The third and fourth were disasters, but by that time you're hooked and there's nothing you can do.  The fifth was marginally better than 3 and 4, but not great.

All of which brings me back to this Lev Grossman business.  First book okay; second one good; third one great.  And all three are finished and readily available to someone with a library card, or a total of, I'm guessing, $75.

Sounds like a winning formula.  I can't wait.

For you completists, I'm listening to Lake Street Dive, by the band of the same name.  A little bit like Steely Dan, maybe.  But not really.  Maybe Steely Dan with Bonnie Raitt singing the lead.

Rdio describes them like this:  "Boston's Lake Street Dive are a fascinating blend of influences and complexity: jazz at heart, with an alternative D.I.Y. sensibility and a passion for classic rock and garage aesthetics."

Sounds like a winning formula.


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