Bestselling author's visit to Minneapolis is like a trip back home – even though he never lived here.
Bestselling author Lev Grossman hasn’t spent much time in Minneapolis, but he calls it “the homeland.”
He grew up 1,400 miles away in Lexington, Mass. But hanging in almost every room of his house were photos of Grossman Chevrolet, the dealership his grandfather, Louis Grossman, founded in 1919 at Lake Street and 13th Avenue S. His father, poet Allen Grossman, told endless stories about the landscape and people that made up his Minnesota childhood.
Visits here in the 1970s and ’80s included what Lev Grossman now remembers as the chance to run amok in his uncle Burton Grossman’s two restaurants, the Little P rince, located in the former H. Alden Smith mansion on Harmon Place in Minneapolis, and the Hippogriff, on Ford Road in St. Louis Park. Grossman himself still has a Hippogriff T-shirt.
“My father always thought of himself as a Midwesterner, in particular a Minnesotan,” said Grossman, who will speak at the Roseville library on Monday to talk about “The Magician’s Land,” final installment of his bestselling Magicians trilogy.
“It’s always exciting to travel to Minneapolis, because for me, there’s something very primal and familiar about the city,” he said. “My father talked and wrote a lot about Minneapolis, especially in his last years. I think one of the reasons I feel so strongly about Minneapolis is because his childhood memories are intermingled with mine.”
A pre-pub bestseller
The first two books in Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, “The Magicians” and “The Magician King,” were mammoth bestsellers, and as much as two weeks before its Aug. 5 release, “The Magician’s Land” was listed as a top seller on both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.
There’s also buzz from the recent announcement that after five years of on-and-off talks with producers, the Syfy channel is in the process of casting, hiring a director and writing the pilot for a series based on “The Magicians.” Following the books, it will tell the story of high school senior Quentin Coldwater, who doesn’t believe in magic until he’s invited to attend a secret college of magic in upstate New York.
However, Brakebills is not Hogwarts, and Quentin is not Harry Potter. Fueled by sex, alcohol and the allure of power and darkness, Quentin travels to the secret world of Fillory, where he eventually becomes king. At the start of “The Magician’s Land,” however, he has been cast out.
“Game of Thrones” series author George R.R. Martin, who invited Grossman to include a Magician-related short story in the 2013 anthology “Dangerous Women” published by Tor Books, describes the series as “thoroughly adult, dark, dangerous and full of twists.”
“The new book, the TV series — I’m so, so excited,” said Grossman, who is also Time magazine’s book critic and lead technology writer. “You try not to be the kind of writer who feels he’s not successful until Hollywood notices, and I’m truly not that. Even if this series were not being made, I’d be incredibly proud of the Magicians books. But to think about my story coming to life on the screen, and all magic that special effects can do — that’s super cool.”
What excites him most is the exposure the series will give to the Magicians books, which he began writing in 2004.
“People say ‘You’ve done something great! You’re special.’ But being special doesn’t just happen. It happens in fantasy literature, where boys and girls learn that their parents are actually kings and queens, or that they have hidden powers. As a kid, I thought I was destined for some special role like this, but then I realized I was just ordinary. I’m just me. If you want to be someone special, or do something special, you have to sit down and do a hell of a lot of hard work.
“That’s what I did writing and rewriting the Magicians trilogy,” Grossman said. “And yeah, I’d like even more people to read these stories.”
At his Roseville talk, Grossman will share stories about his favorite books and literary influences, including Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,” Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
“I met J.K. Rowling exactly one time, but on some level, the Magicians books are me having a conversation with her. Sometimes it’s affectionate and, occasionally, it’s rather heated,” he said. “I think Rowling let Harry off a little easy by never showing him to us at 30. We never really saw him having to deal with his traumatic past — his abusive childhood, his experience of violence and death, his massive world-saving celebrity as a teenager — and struggling to figure out what the rest of his life is about. Those are the things Quentin has to do in ‘The Magicians Land.’ ”
Cindy Wolfe Boynton is a writer and editor in Connecticut.