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Bitch; virago; she-devil; hellcat; sex-kitten; nymphomaniac; vamp;
or, Malicious, quarrelsome, and temperamental.

74%: that’s the math Goodreads hands me, when I tell it I’m on page 296 of The Magicians, and I’m not gonna bother to haul out the calculator to check it. I’m gonna pull the bookmark out of the book and put it back on the shelf in a minute, here. They finally made it to Fillory, but I just can’t be arsed.

And I’m going to tell you upfront what an unfair judge of this book I’d be, assuming I ever made it through, because how much I so desperately wanted to like it meant it’d never live up to what I wanted it to be. —But even weighting the scales with one hell of a thumb to account for that, this is one fucking careless book, and I’m tired, and there’s so much else to read.

I mean, I’ve been to a small liberal arts college. That’s where I matriculated. The whole dam’ college was the size of my senior year at high school, which would be a couple thousand people. There was this phone in the basement of the library, every now and then would make long-distance calls for free, you know? Or at least not demand the caller pay for the call themselves. —And when that happened word would spread the way it does about such things, and for the few hours that the magic held, a dozen people would be lined up at a time to wait to use this phone. (This was when long-distance was expensive, like international calls or something. A different age.)

So I get how you’d want to use an image like that, but stop and think: two thousand people, a few hours or a day or so at most at a pop, samizdata updates, an otherwise little-used phone in a library basement—we’re told that at Brakebills, with only a hundred select students, the one official phone that can reach the outside world constantly also has a line of a dozen or so waiting to use it. One-eighth the entire student body. Constantly. —Even as hyperbole it’s clumsy, because we can only even begin to parse it as hyperbole.

Oh but Kip you might say, stop. You’re taking this too personally; a chance image intersects with a memory you know in your bones; a bit of grit to become a dark, unwholesome pearl in your mouth alone. And maybe I’d agree, but it’s part of an overall pattern: of Brakebills being at once much too big, with too many rooms, too many teachers, too much stuff for only a hundred students, and yet so tiny and cramped there’s only five or six or so we even ever get to meet, if meet’s the right word. Or of the five Fillory books, which expand and contract as needed; if there are five books, say, one does not airily speak of things that generally tended to happen in the earlier books: there are only two earlier books. —Quod erat, for fuck’s sake.

We won’t be getting into how this carelessness fatally undermines whatever’s trying to be said about magic, and ethics, and morality; when you don’t seem to think you need a clear idea about something so real (and magic’s at least as real as religion, you skeptic you, so sit the hell down), well, you’ll never know which way to point it when it’s time to pull the trigger. I’d have to go back through it all to marshal the evidence needed, and as I’ve said I’m tired, and it’s late, and there’s so many other books.

No, the thing is this: this is the thing. 74%, page 296, Quentin the iredeemable asshole yes yes has just proved how manly he is by shoving Penny into a tree or something (allowing us, the Reader, a surging moment of we-would-never superiority tempered by a buried hint of oh-we-have recognition, yes yes), that’s not the moment I decided to drop the book. That’s just when inertia finally ran the flywheel down. No, the moment I decided to drop the book is terribly neatly encapsulable, right there on page 196, the 49% mark:

“Of course it matters, Vix,” Quentin said. “It’s not like they’re all the same.” “Vix” was a term of endearment with them, short for vixen, an allusion to their Antarctic interlude, vixen being the word for a female fox.

Seriously, narrative voice? Seriously? —Christ, get yourself to hell already.

“Fuck the exposition,” he says gleefully as we go back into the bar. “Just be. The exposition can come later.” He describes a theory of television narrative. “If I can make you curious enough, there’s this thing called Google—”
  1. Thorn    Jan 6, 02:54 AM    #

    I loathed the first book for the reasons you discuss and also what seemed like non-stop creepiness to the women characters. Then I read the second and actually enjoyed it, although there’s still to-me-less-creepy heterosexism aplenty. I love this post, kip.


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