The Whole Planet

At some point today (if it hasn’t already occurred), the new issue of Author will go live, included in which is my interview with Lev Grossman. Besides being the book critic for TIME magazine, Lev is the author of the bestselling YA fantasy genre-bender The Magicians, and its sequel, The Magician King. Lev is also the son of the award-winning poet and professor Allen Grossman, as well as the novelist/critic/professor Judith Grossman. As Lev put it in his interview, in order to write The Magicians, his third novel but his first in the fantasy genre, he had to “come out” to himself as a lover of magic and monsters. After all, he was raised in a temple to literature, where writing about wizards – not ironic wizards, not metaphorical wizards, but actual wizards – can be seen as a kind of heresy.

Good thing he did. I love that which gets called literature. In fact, if I were to call anywhere home, both as a reader and as a writer, it would be literature. But to me, if literature has but one aspiration it should be to remind readers that life is worth living no matter any circumstantial evidence to the contrary—and the only life worth living is one that most pleases he who is doing the living.

And anyway, I dislike all these genres. I know we need them to sell books, and a bookstore, virtual or otherwise, is a big place, so there’s no going back. But could anyone put you into a genre? They could put your career into a genre, your ethnicity into a genre, perhaps your religious beliefs into a genre—but what about you? All of you? Where do you really belong but here in the great, open bookstore known as Planet Earth? Only the whole of Planet Earth will suffice for the whole of you—not this city, not this family, not this genre—because like Lev Grossman you reserve the right to change your mind, and when you do, the rest of Planet Earth will be waiting for you.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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