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1 Burnside SF- CRITICISM

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia

by

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia Cover

ISBN13: 9780316017633
ISBN10: 0316017639
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"[Miller] re-read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for an assignment a few years back and found that it had not entirely lost its radiance, its uncanny power to stir. "What I dislike about Narnia," she discovered, "no longer eclipses what I love about it." She set out to determine why — and perhaps to help reclaim it for those misguidedly convinced that it is only a work of Christian apologetics." Elizabeth Ward, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)

"Literary critic Laura Miller first passed through the Narnia portal in the second grade. She was raised Catholic but had fallen away from what she calls the church's 'guilt-mongering and tedious rituals'. She writes, 'I was horrified to discover that the Chronicles of Narnia, the joy of my childhood and the cornerstone of my imaginative life, were really just the doctrine of the Church in disguise.' But Miller could never escape Narnia's spell, and in The Magician's Book, she returns to the landscape of Narnia to search for its deeper meaning. It's a journey of great pleasure — Miller is a wise, down-to-earth and often funny narrator. The result is one of the best books about stories and their power that I have ever read. Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times (read the entire Seattle Times review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Magician's Book is the story of one reader's long, tumultuous relationship with C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Enchanted by its fantastic world as a child, prominent critic Laura Miller returns to the series as an adult to uncover the source of these small books' mysterious power by looking at their creator, Clive Staples Lewis. What she discovers is not the familiar, idealized image of the author, but a more interesting and ambiguous truth: Lewis's tragic and troubled childhood, his unconventional love life, and his intense but ultimately doomed friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien.

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.

Review:

"Jam-packed with critical insights and historical context, this discussion of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia from Miller's double perspectives — as the wide-eyed child who first read the books and an agnostic adult who revisits them — is intellectually inspiring but not always cohesive. Finding her distrust of Christianity undermined by her love of Lewis's indisputably Christian-themed world, Salon.com cofounder and staff writer Miller seeks to 'recapture [Narnia's] old enchantment.' She replaces lost innocence with understanding, visiting Lewis's home in England, reading his letters and books (which she quotes extensively) and interviewing readers and writers. Lengthy musings on Freudian analysis of sadomasochism, J.R.R. Tolkien's Anglo-Saxon nationalism and taxonomies of genre share space with incisive and unapologetic criticism of Lewis's treatment of race, gender and class. The heart of the book is in the first-person passages where Miller recalls longing to both be and befriend Lucy Pevensie and extols Narnia's 'shining wonders.' Her reluctant reconciliation with Lewis's and Narnia's imperfections never quite manages to be convincing, but anyone who has endured exile from Narnia will recognize and appreciate many aspects of her journey." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

As a small girl growing up in California, Laura Miller did not just long to visit Narnia. So bewitched was she by that shining imagined realm — laid out in seven novels back in the 1950s by an eccentric English don — she was pretty sure that not being able to visit it in person would kill her. Along with its various sequels and prequels, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" brought her the purest... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"[Miller's] sometimes affectionate, sometimes analytical book will delight both skeptics and true believers." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Erudite extended essay about C.S. Lewis's classic fantasy series, the meaning of reading in childhood and the author's internal landscape....A rewarding study by a first-rate arts writer." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"An engrossing examination of the importance of children's literature....Part memoir, part passionate reassessment of the lost literary pleasures of childhood, Magician is a beautiful and thoughtful journey back to why we read." Danielle Trussoni, People

Review:

"Miller has created a rare and beautiful beast: a book with the head of a critique, the body of a bibliography, and the heart of a memoir. By recapturing Narnia, she redeems our passion and allows readers to re-discover the wonder of first love. That's some trick." Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

Review:

"[I]t is refreshing to come across an author who shows us how to talk about the books we love....[Miller] also moves us beyond childhood, revealing that the books we loved as children can continue to quicken and expand our imaginations, especially when we have a guide like this one..." BookForum

Review:

"[A] thoughtful and humane journey back to an appreciation of what Lewis created. But it is more than a personal story: It is also an exploration of Lewis's life, his intellectual inclinations and his literary friendships..." The Wall Street Journal

Review:

"Conversational, embracing, and casually erudite, Laura Miller's superb long essay is the kind that comes along too rarely, a foray into the garden of one book that opens to the whole world of reading, becoming in the process a subtle reader's memoir, and manifesto." Jonathan Lethem

Review:

"This is a magical weave of rich soulful criticism....Miller creates an amazing literary work....I couldn't put it down, even as I felt tremendous anticipation of picking up The Chronicles of Narnia again, forty-five years after I first fell in love with it, too." Anne Lamott, author of Grace (Eventually)

Book News Annotation:

A co-founder and staff writer at Salon.com, Miller explains why and how it is still possible for her to love C.S. Lewis' fantasy novels despite the biases and small-mindedness they sometimes display, despite suspecting that she would not like the author very much, and despite the proselytizing that most adults assume is their only real content. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

Enchanted by The Chronicles of Narnia's fantastic world, Miller uncovers the source of these small books' mysterious power by looking at their creator, C. S. Lewis. The author casts the Chronicles as a profoundly literary creation, and the portal to a life-long adventure in books, art, and the imagination.

Synopsis:

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.

About the Author

Laura Miller is a journalist and critic. She is a cofounder of Salon.com, where she is currently a staff writer, and is the editor of The Salon.com Readers Guide to Contemporary Authors. A regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review, her work has also appeared in The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, Time, and other publications. She lives in New York.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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readersrespite, December 18, 2008 (view all comments by readersrespite)
The Magician's Book is a non-fiction look at author Laura Miller's childhood love-affair with The Chronicles of Narnia. Her later disillusionment with The Chronicles and C.S. Lewis comes after the discovery of the Christian themes (barely) underlying the story. Miller goes on to explore her estrangement and later reconciliation with The Chronicles, the life of C.S. Lewis, and the magic of books for children

There is irony to be found in providing literary criticism of a book of literary criticism. Or perhaps it's just redundant. Either way, I have a few observations about The Magician's Book.

Miller provides some beautiful insights into the magic of books (both for children and adults). She explores the allure books hold for children and in doing so also provides a lovely insight into the mind of a child. As an adult, we tend to remember that there were certain books we loved when we were young, but forget exactly why we loved them so much. Miller elucidates those reasons in a softly reminiscent style that is a pleasure to read.

Still, there is such a thing as too much introspection and the original essay perhaps was the best vehicle for what Miller has to say. After providing some brilliant thoughts on a particular subject, for example Lewis' thoughts on people who gravitate towards books, the subject would then be picked apart to such a degree that the original idea was sometimes lost in the process. Which is a shame, really, because there were some wonderful nuggets of wisdom that became mired.

Miller's criticism of the themes present in The Chronicles of Narnia are precisely presented in a logical format and documents a personal wrestling match with Christianity. While some critiques of her work take issue with this, I found it enlightening and smartly written. Miller includes relevant thoughts on Narnia as well as observations from some noted authors, including Neil Gaiman, which fleshes out her own observations quite well.

Miller also delves into the art of literary criticism, mostly in an attempt to explain her own criticisms of The Chronicles of Narnia, but they are especially insightful and interesting to those of us who regularly engage in reading and reviewing literature.

It's been said before that sometimes a story is just that: a story. To analyze the author's intent and meaning by picking apart the work sentence by sentence can ultimately destroy the story itself. Ultimately, perhaps The Chronicles of Narnia are best left for the next generation of children to fall into and enjoy the magic.

If you enjoy reading in-depth literary criticism (or are just addicted to stunningly beautiful cover art), this would be a lovely addition to your library, especially for book bloggers. Be careful, though, if you think the dismantling and reconstruction of The Chronicles of Narnia might ruin a precious childhood memory of these tales.
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(9 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780316017633
Subtitle:
A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia
Author:
Miller, Laura
Publisher:
Back Bay Books
Subject:
English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Subject:
Books & Reading
Subject:
General
Subject:
Children's stories, English
Subject:
Books and reading
Subject:
Children's Literature - General
Subject:
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Subject:
Fantasy fiction, English
Copyright:
Publication Date:
December 2008
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 x 1 in 0.66 lb

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The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia Used Hardcover
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Product details 336 pages Little Brown and Company - English 9780316017633 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Jam-packed with critical insights and historical context, this discussion of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia from Miller's double perspectives — as the wide-eyed child who first read the books and an agnostic adult who revisits them — is intellectually inspiring but not always cohesive. Finding her distrust of Christianity undermined by her love of Lewis's indisputably Christian-themed world, Salon.com cofounder and staff writer Miller seeks to 'recapture [Narnia's] old enchantment.' She replaces lost innocence with understanding, visiting Lewis's home in England, reading his letters and books (which she quotes extensively) and interviewing readers and writers. Lengthy musings on Freudian analysis of sadomasochism, J.R.R. Tolkien's Anglo-Saxon nationalism and taxonomies of genre share space with incisive and unapologetic criticism of Lewis's treatment of race, gender and class. The heart of the book is in the first-person passages where Miller recalls longing to both be and befriend Lucy Pevensie and extols Narnia's 'shining wonders.' Her reluctant reconciliation with Lewis's and Narnia's imperfections never quite manages to be convincing, but anyone who has endured exile from Narnia will recognize and appreciate many aspects of her journey." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[Miller] re-read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for an assignment a few years back and found that it had not entirely lost its radiance, its uncanny power to stir. "What I dislike about Narnia," she discovered, "no longer eclipses what I love about it." She set out to determine why — and perhaps to help reclaim it for those misguidedly convinced that it is only a work of Christian apologetics." (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
"Review A Day" by , "Literary critic Laura Miller first passed through the Narnia portal in the second grade. She was raised Catholic but had fallen away from what she calls the church's 'guilt-mongering and tedious rituals'. She writes, 'I was horrified to discover that the Chronicles of Narnia, the joy of my childhood and the cornerstone of my imaginative life, were really just the doctrine of the Church in disguise.' But Miller could never escape Narnia's spell, and in The Magician's Book, she returns to the landscape of Narnia to search for its deeper meaning. It's a journey of great pleasure — Miller is a wise, down-to-earth and often funny narrator. The result is one of the best books about stories and their power that I have ever read. (read the entire Seattle Times review)
"Review" by , "[Miller's] sometimes affectionate, sometimes analytical book will delight both skeptics and true believers."
"Review" by , "Erudite extended essay about C.S. Lewis's classic fantasy series, the meaning of reading in childhood and the author's internal landscape....A rewarding study by a first-rate arts writer."
"Review" by , "An engrossing examination of the importance of children's literature....Part memoir, part passionate reassessment of the lost literary pleasures of childhood, Magician is a beautiful and thoughtful journey back to why we read."
"Review" by , "Miller has created a rare and beautiful beast: a book with the head of a critique, the body of a bibliography, and the heart of a memoir. By recapturing Narnia, she redeems our passion and allows readers to re-discover the wonder of first love. That's some trick."
"Review" by , "[I]t is refreshing to come across an author who shows us how to talk about the books we love....[Miller] also moves us beyond childhood, revealing that the books we loved as children can continue to quicken and expand our imaginations, especially when we have a guide like this one..."
"Review" by , "[A] thoughtful and humane journey back to an appreciation of what Lewis created. But it is more than a personal story: It is also an exploration of Lewis's life, his intellectual inclinations and his literary friendships..."
"Review" by , "Conversational, embracing, and casually erudite, Laura Miller's superb long essay is the kind that comes along too rarely, a foray into the garden of one book that opens to the whole world of reading, becoming in the process a subtle reader's memoir, and manifesto."
"Review" by , "This is a magical weave of rich soulful criticism....Miller creates an amazing literary work....I couldn't put it down, even as I felt tremendous anticipation of picking up The Chronicles of Narnia again, forty-five years after I first fell in love with it, too."
"Synopsis" by , Enchanted by The Chronicles of Narnia's fantastic world, Miller uncovers the source of these small books' mysterious power by looking at their creator, C. S. Lewis. The author casts the Chronicles as a profoundly literary creation, and the portal to a life-long adventure in books, art, and the imagination.
"Synopsis" by , 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.

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