Den här måndagen har jag äran att presentera en utav boktipsauktoriteterna i mitt liv: nämligen Lev Grossman som är litteraturkritiker och teknikskribent på Time och författare till bl.a. boken ”The Magicians” som var en av mina favoriter från 2009 (nyss utkommen i pocket). Han är gift med författarinnan Sophie Gee (”The Scandal of the Season” ) och även hans tvillingbror Austin Grossman är författare (”Soon I Will Be Invincible”) . Missa inte heller hans blogg http://techland.com/ (fd Nerdworld).
What are you reading at the moment?
At this exact moment? I’m reading James Enge’s ”This Crooked Way”. I don’t know much about Enge — I don’t even think that’s his real name — but he’s a fantasy author who has obviously read a lot of Fritz Lieber and a lot of Larry Niven, and he uses those raw materials to build the most amazing things.
Also I’m reading my wife’s secret book-in-progress, which is amazing. Ghost stories will never be the same.
Which are the most important reads you’ve had so far in your life and why?
The list has to start with C.S. Lewis’s ”The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. That’s where I discovered that you could make realer, more vivid worlds with words than you could with pictures or anything else for that matter. It also made me want to actually get into those worlds, which was probably the wrong lesson. It took a while to un-learn that one.
What else? ”Ulysses”, which is a boring answer, but oh my God, Joyce does things with words that shouldn’t even be possible. It’s like he has a cheat code that unlocks God mode. In a quieter way Donald Barthelme’s ”Snow White” had a similar effect on me.
Lastly, Susanna Clarke’s ”Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell”. At a moment when I wondered where fantasy could go from here, what new kinds of stories it could tell, what kinds of emotions it could reach, she just blew the doors and walls off, and left me standing in the middle of a whole new undiscovered landscape.
As a critic at Time Magazine, have you ever regretted a review and are there any books that you are especially proud of having introduced to the bigger public?
Oh, sure. Yes to both. I used write hatchet jobs, really aggressive pans, and I regret those now. I did one of Colson Whitehead, and another of A.M. Homes, that I would retract if I could. Conversely I wrote early raves of a couple of books by then-little-known authors that I’m very proud of. Alice Sebold’s ”The Lovely Bones” (”Flickan från ovan”) and Jeannette Walls’ ”The Glass Castle” (”Glasborgen”) would be two examples. So would ”Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell”. And I’ve been able to push Kelly Link pretty steadily over the years. I don’t know if I helped them find a larger audience, but I like to think that I did.
With parents that were English professors, did they influence your reading a lot when you where young?
Very much. Both positively and negatively. Growing up in a house of books made reading and writing the obvious choice for both entertainment and self-expression. But we were pushed quite hard to immerse ourselves in the classics. I remember being given Dickens when I was 9 or 10. Dickens isn’t interesting to a 10-year-old. To get away from Dickens I dived into fantasy and science fiction. There I discovered that I could read and piss off my parents at the same time. For a 10 year old, nothing is better than that.
I later became a very serious student of the canon. But the damage had been done.
Do you judge people by their bookshelves?
If you were to recommend the readers of Bokhora a few books that they absolutely should read this year, which books would that be?
I don’t find that there are more than two or three indispensable novels in a given year. It’s the nature of fiction: the signal to noise ratio is very low. This year I would guess that Jonathan Franzen’s ”Freedom” will be one of those. (Utkommer i slutet av augusti på engelska). I enjoyed David Mitchell’s ”The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” very much, and Gary Shteyngart’s new book (”Super Sad True Love Story”). With any luck George R.R. Martin will publish ”A Dance with Dragons” this year. That would be worth reading.
Beyond that, no year is a bad year to read ”Madame Bovary”.
I understand that you are working on a sequel to ”The Magicians”, when will it be published? And, is there any chance that ”The Magicians” will be translated into Swedish?
If I can complete it on time — meaning by this October — ”The Magician King” will be released in America sometime next summer. As for a Swedish version, I can honestly say that I don’t know whether or not a publisher has bought the rights or not. It’s not that I don’t care! But there’s a person — her name is Stephanie — who keeps all that stuff straight for me. I’ll ask her.