The Magician's Book

The Magician's Book

A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia

Book - 2009
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THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is the story of one reader's long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia . As a child, Laura Miller read and re-read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and its sequels countless times, and wanted nothing more that to find her own way to Narnia. In her skeptical teens, a casual reference to the Chronicles's Christian themes left her feeling betrayed and alienated from the stories she had come to know and trust. Years later, convinced that "the first book we fall in love with shapes us every bit as much as the first person we fall in love with," Miller returns to Lewis's classic fantasies to see what mysteries Narnia still holds for adult eyes--and is captured in an entirely new way.

In her search to uncover the source of these small books' mysterious power, Miller looks to their creator, Clive Staples Lewis. What she discovers is not the familiar, idealized image of the author, but a man who stands in stark contrast to his whimsical creation-scarred by a tragic and troubled childhood, Oxford educated, a staunch Christian, and a social conservative, armed with deep prejudices.

THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is an intellectual adventure story, in which Miller travels to Lewis's childhood home in Ireland, the possible inspiration for Narnia's landscape; unfolds his intense friendship with J.R.R.Tolkien, a bond that led the two of them to create the greatest myth-worlds of modern times; and explores Lewis's influence on writers like Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Franzen, and Philip Pullman. Finally reclaiming Narnia "for the rest of us," Miller casts the Chronicles as a profoundly literary creation, and the portal to a life-long adventure in books, art, and the imagination. Erudite, wide-ranging, and playful, THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is for all who live in thrall to the magic of books.
Publisher: New York : Back Bay Books, 2009.
ISBN: 9780316017657
0316017655
Characteristics: 312 pages cm.

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lukasevansherman
Apr 08, 2019

I grew up with Narnia. It was mother's favorite series, and she read it to me and then I re-read it by myself. I also grew up evangelical Christian and went to Wheaton College (the Harvard of Christian colleges), where C.S. Lewis is as close to a protestant saint as you can get. Salon's Laura Miller also grew up loving the Narnia books without really being aware of their Christian content. In "The Magician's Book," she revisits them as a non-religious adult, as well as the life of Lewis, a professor, prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction, including books on Christianity, and friend of fellow professor and fantasy writer, J.R.R. Tolkein. She is torn, as I'm sure many adult readers are, between her childhood love of the books and her disapproval of the moralizing, religious message (Aslan= Jesus), and sometimes insensitive treatment of race and gender. She captures this tension with wit and nuance and whatever faults she finds with Lewis, she cannot quite abandon Narnia. She also interviews other readers of the series, including other fantasy authors like Neil Gaman and Philip Pullman, perhaps the most outspoken critic of Lewis. An engaging and insightful treatment of an iconic, beloved series.

Mark_Daly Aug 12, 2013

Comprehensive, but still breezy, lit-crit examination of the Narnia books. Forthrightly addresses the many problems of the series, while still conveying a somewhat befuddled affection for it. Perhaps many readers can recall a kind of shocked awakening when they first realized the religiosity, sexism, racism, etc. embedded in this childhood favorite. Which raises the question: Why do so many of us still yearn to visit Narnia? (My own theory is that the secret sauce of the books is Lewis's debt to Evelyn Nesbit and his desire to emulate her style.) As a bonus, there's loads of trivia in here for Narnia devotees.

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