Catching Up with Lev Grossman: T.S. Eliot, Explaining Ulysses to Kids, and Plot Perverts

A lot has happened to Lev Grossman since his interview for Omnivoracious in July. His fantasy novel The Magicians has been published to a great deal of praise--including a positive if condescending review in the NYTBR--made bestseller lists, and generated some controversy courtesy of a short essay Grossman wrote for the Wall Street Journal entitled “Good Novels Don’t Have to Be Hard Work.”. In the essay, Grossman discussed the Modernists in the context of contemporary popular fiction, writing in part, “There was a time when difficult literature was exciting. T.S. Eliot once famously read to a whole football stadium full of fans. And it's still exciting--when Eliot does it. But in contemporary writers it has just become a drag. Which is probably why millions of adults are cheating on the literary novel with the young-adult novel, where the unblushing embrace of storytelling is allowed, even encouraged.” These kinds of statements on Grossman’s part generated some blowback from various sources (including, indirectly, some weirdo named Evil Monkey), followed by Grossman addressing the points raised by his critics over at Publishers Weekly’s Genreville.

Case closed, right? Not for us here at Omnivoracious--we thought the whole sequence of events was entirely too serious and needed a more entertaining postscript. Thus, we tracked down Grossman via email and asked him the following questions... How would you explain James Joyce's Ulysses to a 12-year-old child? Is there a children's book or YA equivalent you could reference?

Lev Grossman: I guess you could get away with saying that it's a story about an Irish teenager without a real father, who meets a lonely man who's always wanted a son, and they get to be friends. They're kind of like Harry Potter and Sirius Black. Wow, that sounded like the worst after-school special ever.


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Comments (1)

Great Article! After reading this I can say that this book is gonna be amongst the best seller around the world because grossman is a good writer and there is always some message conveyed by his book...

Posted by: bluetooth maus | Tuesday September 15, 2009 at 10:33 PM

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