In the land of Fillory
August 9, 2011 12:14 PM   Subscribe

You might know Parry Gripp (previously) as one of the nerf herders behind the Buffy theme song or the writer of dozens of obnoxiously catchy fake jingles. But did you know that he's also magic? Today, in honor of the release of Lev Grossman's The Magician King (review contains spoilers Grossman's The Magicians), Gripp has released "I Wanna Be a Magician," a Magicians fan song.

Other geeky Gripp projects-of-note include the Nerf Herder song "Mr. Spock" and Galactic Perry's Learning Starship, a parody of children's educational television.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi (24 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I just finished The Magician a few days ago. Awesome book, and the reviews seem to indicate that the squeal is even better.
posted by COD at 12:25 PM on August 9, 2011

I realized belatedly that my main theme of my most recent post Music is not only borrowed from Black Sabbath (intentionally), it's even more directly lifted from the Buffy theme.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:25 PM on August 9, 2011

I just finished The Magician a few days ago. Awesome book, and the reviews seem to indicate that the squeal is even better.

I managed to get an advanced copy and loved it enough to preorder my husband one. It's good (though i suspect like the first, it will be divisive).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:27 PM on August 9, 2011

The Buffy theme is probably my least favorite of the 4 major Whedonverse TV themes, but damn if I don't still get a slight visceral thrill when I hear it somewhere.

(My order, BTW, would be Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Buffy. But it's like trying to rank my favorite Ninja Turtles or something. They're all good!)
posted by kmz at 12:29 PM on August 9, 2011

I'm looking forward to the Magician King. The Magicians was like 3/4 of an amazingly good book-- so good that even when you factor in the 1/4 of it that was pointless, hateful, and vaguely misogynistic it was still better than most of what's out there.
posted by dersins at 12:32 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I might be alone in this, but I found The Magicians to be for the most part dull and almost entirely bereft of interesting characters (except for the one person who was denied entry to the school). It was like a NYT article about trust fundies taken to a ludicrous degree. Let's create a knowingly derivative world, suck out the interest and magic, and replace it with ennui and self-importance. I never want to dislike something I am readimg, but I never found that this book did something new or even interesting with regards to magic, loss of innocence, or the human condition. Even the action bits seemed to be at a calculated distance.

Needless to say, I will be skipping the sequel. I just do not get what I was missing.
posted by X-Himy at 12:35 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Guess who's in the woods and red reading TheMagicians?

This guy
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

This thread is meaningless without "Chimpanzee Riding On A Segway"
posted by briank at 12:50 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

This late review covers the first book pretty well, IMHO.

I have no idea how well it pertains to the new one (damn you crappy bookstore!)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:52 PM on August 9, 2011

Can't say I was a huge fan of The Magicians. I found the whole thing...grey. Dull. Anticlimatic. X-Himy's review is sort of spot-on to me. I felt like we were all missing too much of the backplot, the imagined children's book(s), to appreciate the climatic battle and villain. I did love a lot of the details though - such as when said villain appears in class.

The book should have been right in my sweet spot. I often wich I had more good magic/parallel worlds type stuff aimed at an adult audience. I adored Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. The Magicians should have been exactly what I wanted and it mostly failed to deliver sympathetic characters and struggles with any sense of epic, not to mention any of the wonder and joy of magic past their first year. And it's not that I have a problem with the "realistic" pr dark aspects - I just wish the whole book had been about Alice. Alice's end is pretty damn dark and it's kind of fantastic.

The more I think about this, the more I like Alice.
posted by maryr at 1:19 PM on August 9, 2011

mark me down for one who disliked the magicians. I had such high hopes for it! but, the characters gave me no reason to care about the things they did to themselves.
posted by rebent at 1:38 PM on August 9, 2011

Take that Sammy Hagar!
posted by Daddy-O at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2011

Parry Gripp's masterpiece.

No joke: that song is playing in my head for at least 15 or 20 minutes a week. I can only imagine that someday it will drive me to violence.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:48 PM on August 9, 2011

pardon me but I believe you'll find that this is the greatest of his oeuvre.
posted by elizardbits at 1:49 PM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was similarly underwhelmed by The Magicians. I wrote it off to my growing lack of interest in stories about crappy people doing crappy things to each other. I'm okay with crappy people stories and stories about people doing crappy things, but when you put them together and there's no reason for them to be behaving that way other than jerk-dom... I just can't get invested in the story.

I assumed that, given the ending, that was sort of the point. So I just wrote it off as "not for me." But some people I respect have told me I'm more likely to like the sequel so I'll probably give it a shot.

I miss Nerf Herder. My wife and I have been known to say "sorry I crashed through the window on acid" or "sorry I bled to death" to each other.
posted by phearlez at 2:14 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't much like the song.

Quite like The Magicians. Y'all are welcome to your own experience with it -- that's just the way it is with art. But let me provide my own perspective on some of this criticism:

I'm okay with crappy people stories and stories about people doing crappy things, but when you put them together

it mostly failed to deliver sympathetic characters and struggles with any sense of epic, not to mention any of the wonder and joy of magic past their first year.

It was like a NYT article about trust fundies taken to a ludicrous degree. Let's create a knowingly derivative world, suck out the interest and magic, and replace it with ennui and self-importance.

Which is to say, replace it with how an awful lot of people handle this world, despite the fact that it's filled to the brim with interesting and (figuratively) magical things -- even those who are by privilege or by chance theoretically best placed to take advantage of all the rich opportunities presented. The juxtaposition with the familiar trappings of some of the most beloved fantasy novels is there to highlight the point that the presence of magic might hardly go very far at all when it comes to counteracting ennui and self-importance and helping people assume the mantle of nobility that we often see displayed in stories. I find Quentin and his misery despite his talents and blessings more than a little familiar, and I think a lot of us need Alice's little lecture:
[L]ook at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it; there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.
Sure, it's not a particularly unique or new theme, and we're not all part of an elite club... or, wait a minute, aren't we? I'm never going to be invited into a sinecure at a hedge fund, but the modern digitally-connected first-world has some pretty fantastic aspects, and hell if most of us don't miss the magic or perfection of it and do crappy things to each other sometimes. A familiar lecture, but I think Grossman is with his tale succeeding at what Lewis and Tolkein talked about doing: story not as an abstraction but as a means of encountering concrete reality, which is in this case the problem of being presented with a world full of magic and possibility and not having what it takes inside to navigate it with contentment and nobleness.

If this were all, it'd actually be enough for me, but there's a lot of other things that work in the book for me. The initial scene with the Beast is as compellingly creepy to me as anything I've read. Some of the parallels between art and magic (like the idea that at a deep level you have to mean a spell for it to work) strike. I love the initial scene where Fogg's trying to get Quentin to show some magic as some kind of test and Q doesn't get what's going on and finally unleashes this impressive display as a fantastic concrete distillation of the moments of frustration where people sometimes find themselves suddenly rising to the moment and giving a good account of themselves. But back to Quentin (and friends) and his douchey and antiheroic behavior, despite all of it, he's still *trying* in a lot of ways. Grossman has managed to write him as having these problems but still being sympathetic; he's hardly coldly untouched by the problems of his decisions, he's actually overwhelmed by them, knowing something is wrong and even realizing it's within himself, even getting the truth of Alice's words -- but still not knowing what to do. He hasn't figured out how to fix it.

Maybe that resonates with me because I'm equally flawed, but I think it might also be that this is also a very honest way to write things. I have my doubts that anybody ever really solves the problems of gratitude and presence vs taking the world around them for granted and being miserable amongst a profusion of blessings. I suspect it's a thing that most of us learn and forget, and the best of us learn to learn again and again.

Quentin doesn't learn it by the end of The Magicians, I think. It's hard to say if he might have if the course of events hadn't had such a irrecoverably dire outcome, or if that was a necessity for him to do the searching he ended up doing. But he *does* do two things at the end which I think are admirable and set the stage for the promise of future growth: (1) he turns down a narrative of absolution, and accepts his own responsibility (2) he gives himself another chance.

I can see why that doesn't offset all the douchey behavior for some people, but I also think there comes a moment for most of us flawed sinners where we have to make similar choices, and the ones Quentin with regard to those two choices makes are the only ones that lead to the possibility of redemption.

I'm a little afraid Grossman will string us along and not do anything so tidy as redemption with the second book, but I'm looking forward to finding out.
posted by weston at 4:02 PM on August 9, 2011 [8 favorites]

weston, I was trying not to thread-sit, but you've articulated what works in the first novel really well for me. My husband read it recently and suggested it was all allegorical for academia, a notion I think I mentally skirted around in my own reading and analysis but which I think really pinpoints for me what works about Quentin's character. His story isn't a fantasy story necessarily, but rather an exploration of how childhood fantasies entertained by lower-middle class suburban (or urban) kids come into conflict with the realities of adulthood. If you were a child who thought that academia was your way out of the daily grind, as I was, I think you're often surprised when confronted with a life after college to find that it's both true and not true: you might have shed the life of your parents, but you're still left with abiding by the day-in, day-out boredom with which anyone who has their basic needs taken care of must contend. Quentin's a tragic figure, though not always a sympathetic one, someone who has so wholly accepted the purifying power of myth that he's left rudderless in the real world. He's often not likable, but, having been in an MFA program (with students who largely up and moved to Brooklyn after!), I can't help but say that I'll be damned if he wasn't true. I can understand people not liking Quentin, but it makes me a little sad to hear of people so summarily dismissing him. Though dude's a jerk, and some readers don't want to hang out with jerks, I guess. But real life is full of jerks, too, and I think that Quentin's story reveals certain things about these people that's pretty interesting.

I suspect Grossman is aware of these tensions. He was a PhD drop out himself, after all, and he's said in his blog that Quentin in book 1 was himself at 17, and that Quentin in book 2 is closer to himself, now. I definitely don't want to spoil (though I am itching to talk to people about the second book), but he certainly changes and grows. Whether you'll find the resolutions you want in book 2 . . . all I'll say is that I found myself (an unabashed trilogy-hater) really hoping there will be a third one. That's not to say that we're "strung along," but, well, you'll see.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:39 PM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Warning: This comment has definite spoilers, skip if you have not read The Magicians.

I can certainly see the parallels to academia (finishing a PhD then being set loose on the world, adrfit, with no clear career path? Yeah, that works pretty literally with the book.)

The review (of the original) offers the idea that what sets The Magicians apart from some similar works is that it is not escapism. Escapism doesn't have to be happy - again, look at the Harry Potter books. But it does have to take you outside yourself. I think that's my interpretation of what phearlez said about crappy people and crappy events. We do live in a world that is much more similar to the book - sometimes we get the best possible outcome and good people still die for no real reason. Sometimes people are shitty and make stupid decisions. That doesn't make them uninteresting. Perfect characters are no fun.

But I can't quite put my finger on what it is here that was just...unsatisifying. Maybe that's it. Maybe it isn't escapist because it isn't satisfying but then LIFE isn't satisfying. I wonder how much of the divide between people who like the book and people who don't comes down to those ideas like redemption and resolution. There's nothing wrong with wanting your story to have an ending (or, failing a conclusion, a decisive event). Somehow, even Alice's death didn't feel like it really changed Quentin. He was still willing to throw his life away, walk out a nth story window, into Fillory. It's very frustrating to end the book with Quentin just as willing to run away from finding his own challenges as he was in high school. (Although, again, it fits damn well with the academic parallel.)

Sorry, I have to run and catch a bus to a different computer now so I'm going to post this even though I haven't quite said what I mean yet. I think both the satisfying escapist desire and the truer, more lifelike characters/situations are equally valid, sorry I'm not saying it well.
posted by maryr at 6:32 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

TURTLE urtle urtle urtle
TURTLE urtle urtle urtle
TURTLE urtle urtle urtle

posted by DU at 5:06 AM on August 10, 2011

All too often the word "genius" is bandied lightly about in connection with such names as Beethoven or Mozart, neither of whom has ever so much as seen a wiener dog on a Minimoog.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:19 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with wanting your story to have an ending (or, failing a conclusion, a decisive event). Somehow, even Alice's death didn't feel like it really changed Quentin. He was still willing to throw his life away, walk out a nth story window, into Fillory. It's very frustrating to end the book with Quentin just as willing to run away from finding his own challenges as he was in high school.

At the time he makes final choice of the book, it seems to me that neither magic nor Fillory is an escape for him anymore. His history with both -- and with the specific people who present the choice to him -- contains some deep tragedy. They're no longer shining myths, a door to a place where everything is better. But he goes. More of a beginning than an ending, but not a bad way to close an epilogue.

I think the case for this gets stronger on examination of his entire post-climax arc, in which I also see a lot of evidence of the impact of Alice's sacrifice. At first he kind of flails and twitches about at some kind of action-oriented response while he's convalescing from the climactic battle; you see him *trying* different things in an attempt to occupy himself and come up with some internal response to what has happened. In particular I think it's telling that he goes back to a previous magic project and completes it, aping to some extent the interest Alice had displayed in magic for its own sake while everybody else was apparently busy going to parties in Manhattan. That wasn't exactly him, beforehand; he's trying on strains of other ways of living that he saw through others and in particular Alice.

But it slowly becomes obvious that none of this is satisfying to Quentin. And I think it comes to a head with the scene with the questing beast, at which point I think he comes to believe that it's all futile: nothing will bring back what's been lost, and nothing will quiet his feelings, in particular his guilt for contributing on top of how he was treated people he should have treated best before it all went down.

That's when he makes the choice of the non-magical sinecure. Contrast it with most of his past avoidance, where he often just doesn't do anything at all that would change course. Take for example his response to what happens to Amanda Orloff after the first appearance of the beast: he tells no one, he makes no response, he just lets the guilt and shame get impacted in with the rest of his unresolved feelings that turn to numbness while he continues right on his previous path.

But not, post Fillory, when he returns to the world. He faces up to all of it. He goes and he tells Fogg everything (even his role in what happend to Amanda). And then he takes the sinecure, which I see as a both an effort at penance and an emotional surrender to the intractability of navigating his own feelings. The *previous* things he was doing in the centaur monastery might have been an attempt to escape... but he finally concludes there is no escape, no reparation, not for him, and embraces a life where he does *precisely* the opposite of what magicians do. Magicians (and normal people actually living their life) interact with others and the world and do and change things. But at this point, Quentin does *absolutely nothing*... because that's all he's decided he deserves or trusts himself to do.

He has essentially quarantined himself from life because he's given up on both.

It's noble in the sense that he's not just barreling on. It's a big improvement on how he's avoided things before. Sentencing himself to non-life is self-aware and conscientious in a lot of ways. But it's still also a form of avoidance and perhaps ultimately as futile as anything else he's tried.

He's then offered two chances to leave this purgatory he's assumed for himself.

The first one is presented by Emily Greenstreet. She asks him to interact with the world (and specifically her) and to absolve himself by blaming magic. He refuses (to his credit, I think).

The second one is presented by Eliot, Janet, and Julia. And it doesn't just involve leaving his self-imposed purgatory, it involves going retreading activities and places that lead to tragedy before. Fillory is no longer just a magical better place, and he already knows living his dream of being a magician will hardly make everything better.

But he gives it and himself a chance anyway.
posted by weston at 4:00 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I certainly wasn't condemning The Magicians for the reasons I stated that it didn't entertain me and I don't dispute it as a good book; my reaction was all about my personal biases in media these days. I similarly am highly turned off from epic continuing work like the Thrones series because I have such a wealth of things I can spend my time on that I'm fussy about making a long time commitment. That's about me, not about the quality of the work.

But were I to elaborate, yeah, you're right weston - Quentin's behavior isn't at all atypical for the world and it's probably a perfect reflection of the situation a lot of people find themselves in. But what it lacked that I personally needed was a sense of empathy in Quentin for other people.

That's certainly great support for the suggestion that his behavior reflects the author at 17 - a time when most of us aren't great at seeing the world from other people's shoes. Quentin's reaction to the repercussion of his actions is in line with that too - it's not that he's not regretful, but the nature of his regret doesn't, to me, line up with a real sense of understanding of the suffering of others.

Which is fair, but I'm at a point in my life where the conflicts that I see and experience tend less to be about self-knowledge and more about walking an honest path that lines up with society and the impact I have on others. I don't have a lot of interest in re-exploring a mindset that I'm glad to have left behind. I'll be interested to see if the sequel holds my interest.
posted by phearlez at 12:35 PM on August 12, 2011

The Magicians tends to turn off many traditional fantasy readers, and I think that's by design, as it's more a character-driven lit-fic novel. The second book is even more so.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:45 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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