The Magicians by Lev Grossman
“There was something odd about the man’s appearance— Quentin couldn’t seem to make out his face. For a second, he couldn’t figure out why, and then he realized it was because there was a small leafy branch in front of in front of it that partially obscured his features. The branch came from nowhere. It was attached to nothing. It just hung there in front of the man’s face.” (“The Beast,” p. 111)
This is a book I started in my Science Fiction and Fantasy class two years ago and finally finished it a few days ago. The book begins with the main character, Quentin Coldwater, on his way to an interview for Princeton, but he ends up receiving an invitation to a very exclusive magic college called Brakebills in upstate New York. Throughout the story, Quentin also references a series of books he loved as a child, called the Fillory and Further series (based on the Narnia books). The first part of the book takes place during Quentin’s time at Brakebills, which lasts five years. The second part takes place just after graduation, and the core characters are living in Manhattan, constantly drinking and partying without any real responsibilities. I did like some of the main characters, like Quentin, Eliot, and Alice. The other characters feel more like minor characters despite being people with whom Quentin interacts a lot. I did like the story as a whole and am glad that I read it, but I did feel as if there was a lot of “telling” in the book and not very much “showing.” For example, the chapter when Quentin is taking the entrance exam for Brakebills, it felt like I was just jumping through that experience and that I was just told what was happening. I would have preferred more description in that chapter to really feel like I was in that scene. I also didn’t have a very strong sense of time or urgency in certain parts of the book even in scenes that were supposed to be urgent. I also sometimes felt like I was reading a few different stories combined into one. The first part is really a story just about Brakebills; then, we get a story about the characters living in New York City, being lazy and having no idea what to do with themselves. In the third part, they go to another world, but that part of the book seems so removed from the events that took place in the Brakebills section. There are little elements that are mentioned throughout the story that don’t seem necessary, but they later do fit together at the end of the story; however, I’m not really a fan of writing stories in that way where information seems trivial when first presented, and it isn’t until the end of the story that the reader discovers their importance. I know that it sounds like I didn’t like the book at all, which isn’t true. I liked parts of it, but I think it just fell a little flat. The way the book ends also is clearly just a set-up for the sequel. I probably will read the sequel at some point, but I don’t really see myself buying a copy of this book or even rereading it at all.
Overall rating: B
Wrote this last night, on the spot:
Marvin sat on the porch and looked up at the stars. He lived on a farm with his mother and grandparents where the city lights could never block out the light from the millions of stars in the sky. Life for him wasn’t always the easiest. He was an only child and didn’t have many friends his age who lived near the farm. His mother worked as a substitute teacher, and along with the money his grandfather earned from selling crops in the market, it was barely enough to keep the four of them fed and Marvin enrolled in the private school where his mother worked most often. Although the school cost more money than going to a public school, Marvin’s mother knew that the Catholic school had more resources and offered more opportunities for her son. Still, there were many times when Marvin just felt lonely. It was usually at night when his mother was still at work and his grandparents had gone to sleep that Marvin felt loneliest. He never felt like he really fit in at his school where most of his classmates came from wealthy families. He leaned back in the rocking chair on the front porch. It was very late at night, sometime after midnight, and he had snuck outside while his grandparents and mother slept. The night enveloped him in darkness, but he looked up, the whole sky was just bursting with billions of stars. It was Marvin’s favorite thing about living away from the city.
I’m currently working on revising my teaching portfolio. It’s the final thing I have to do this semester. It does suck, but after this, I’ll be one step closer to being a real teacher. That’s all I really want. To be a legit teacher who does right by my kids. I know I won’t be a great teacher my first year, but I want to stick with it. After a few years, I hope to be a truly great teacher. I’m so close. I just have to push through a little bit longer. All of my kids from this past semester are my motivation to do well. They all signed a card for me when I finished student teaching telling me what a great teacher I was, and I just want to make them proud.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Genre: Magical Realism
“On the morning that they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.” (Chapter 1, p. 1)
I have been wanting to read some of García Márquez’s novels for a while now, and I picked this up while at my friend’s beach house yesterday. I read the whole thing in a little over two hours. Overall, I liked the book a lot. Even reading a translation, I still got a sense of Garcia Márquez’s style. The story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator investigating the events that lead to the death of Santiago Nasar twenty-seven years after the fact. From the very first line, we know that Santiago is going to be killed, and we eventually learn that most everyone in the town also knows this, yet nobody actually does anything to prevent the killing (with the exception of one or two people). Even though we are told in the opening line what Santiago’s fate will be, we don’t have all of the pieces of the story. It almost felt like we were unraveling the mystery with the narrator himself, who would reveal certain information to us unchronologically. There were a few times where I had to push myself a little to keep going to the end, but, as a whole, I did enjoy reading this book. I would love to read the original in Spanish, and maybe reading it in English first will help me understand it better in Spanish.
Overall rating: A
Sometimes, I feel like I’m on the edge of something, like I feel all of this potential building up, and soon I’ll be doing something great. I just don’t know what it could be. I just want to go and do and be. In the world. Living. Making things happen. Creating.
Right now, the TPA is the only thing standing between me and the end of this semester. I still have two summer classes, but I will be feeling pretty good after this milestone. My current life goal includes getting the Spanish position at Smith Middle School and moving to Chapel Hill for a little while, at least until my undergrad friends finally graduate. I do like Chapel Hill, and I might stick around for a while if I get some attachments to the area beyond Smith, but I would also be up for moving back to Apex and commuting to Smith. I’ll be going to Saint Francis on Sundays anyway, so Apex would be closer.
I feel small stories in my heart, but I haven’t quite found the words to tell them. I want to find that voice again. I want writing to come naturally to me. I have visions and ideas dancing around in my mind, but I think because I got out of the habit of writing, it isn’t so easy for me to just write out a story, even the little ones. I’ll just keep thinking and imagining, and I’ll work on getting back in the habit of writing, even if it’s just a little. It would be nice to be able to create some little stories to have.