Harry Potter for Grownups


Friday, September 23, 2011

Lev Grossman Lev Grossman (Sophie Gee)

Lately it seems like you can't pick up a new work of fiction without some character crawling out of the grave or casting a spell. Authors we used call "serious" and "literary" — shorthand for writers who wrote realism — are suddenly writing about the magical and supernatural. Colson Whitehead has a zombie novel coming out next month. Tom Perotta, who wrote the suburban story Little Children, has a new novel about life on earth after a Rapture-like miracle. And there are many more on the way.

These writers are bringing literary ambition to genres that were once considered lowbrow. So is old fashioned fiction on the way out?

Lev Grossman is a book critic and literary novelist. But his big breakthrough came two years ago with The Magicians, a novel about a young wizard. The sequel, The Magician King, just came out and is already a bestseller.

But Grossman says making the transition from “serious” to genre fiction wasn’t easy. “I had to come out to myself as a fantasy writer, at the advanced age of 35,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “It was a transformative moment — and not unpainful.”

    Music Playlist
  1. Thriller
    Artist: Michael Jackson
    Album: Thirller
    Label: Sony
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Prologue
    Artist: John Williams
    Album: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Label: Atlantic
    Purchase: Amazon

Produced by:

Eric Molinsky

Comments [5]

Josh from Studio 360

Hi Troy --

It's a cover by the London Symphony Orchestra:


Sep. 26 2011 06:42 PM

Why is it, 141 years after Jules Verne wrote "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", and 526 years after Malory's "Le Morte D' Arthur", not to mention Mary Shelley's 1818 blockbuster"Frankenstein", is science fiction or fantasy not considered 'serious' or literary'... and somehow something new? Lowbrow? What pompous BS.

Sep. 26 2011 04:40 PM
Tracy Barrett from Nashville, TN

Contemporary YA fantasy a simplistic battle of good vs. evil--seriously? OK, I'll grant you Harry Potter (simplistic on many levels), but what about the morally ambivalent The Hunger Games? The unreliable narrator of M. T. Anderson's Feed? And many more . . .

Sep. 25 2011 01:17 PM

Any idea whose instrumental rendition of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds opened this segment? It was really beautiful.

Sep. 24 2011 04:44 PM
Stan Duncan from Boston, MA

Just wanted to agree with your opening comment today about (popular) novels all having someone come back from the dead to bite people. Not my cup of tea, but they are everywhere.

I have a novel out (the ill-fated _Fire on Poteau Mountain_) that is an old fashioned southern, slow paced, literary novel (you would say "realistic"), full of town drunks, wife-beaters and jilted-lover suicides. My readers and some contests rave about it, but it may win the award for being the least read novel of the decade. One publisher actually said that if I could weave in an alternative story-line about my dead lover coming back to life to take revenge on those who did 'im wrong, he could sell it. Alas...

Stan Duncan

Sep. 24 2011 01:37 PM

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