How depression is like magic

Laura Miller in Salon:

Lev_grossmanThe final novel in Lev Grossman’s bestselling, genre-bending trilogy, “The Magician’s Land,” landed in the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list this week, following on more than one enthusiastic review. But when Grossman published the first book, “The Magicians,” in 2009, he felt some trepidation. Although it told the story of a young man, Quentin Coldwater, whisked from anomie in contemporary Brooklyn to a secret wizardry university in upstate New York, the novel was written in the sort of wised-up, self-conscious tone literary writers use to convey stories of tottering marriages and waylaid careers. Would it be too realistic for fantasy readers and too fantastical for fans of realism? Grossman, a book critic for Time magazine, describes himself as “risk-averse,” but he gambled, and it paid off. The Magicians trilogy has won a sizable and devoted readership, and a pilot based on the first book is currently in production for the SyFy channel. I recently spoke with Grossman about breaking the rules of the fantasy genre and the similarities between magic, writing code and clinical depression.

But the magic itself doesn’t represent depression surely? Depression seems so disempowering.

When you’re depressed, when you’re in bed and feel like you can’t get out, you can’t imagine doing work or accomplishing anything or anybody loving you. So when you look around you and you see these things happening to other people, they look like magic to you. They look that exotic, that strange, that impossible. And when you begin to crawl out of the pit and reengage with the world, it seems very magical. It felt as though getting out of bed yesterday was impossible, but now you’re doing it. Just by returning to daily life, you’re a magician.

More here.