"Conversational, embracing, and casually erudite, Laura Miller's superb long essay is the kind that comes along too rarely, a foray into the garden of one book that opens to the whole world of reading, becoming in the process a subtle reader's memoir, and manifesto."
-- Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn
"Smart, meticulous, and altogether delightful."
-- Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"Along with her fascinating insights into the world of Narnia and the mind that conjured it, Miller provides one of the best explanations I have ever read about why so-called children's literature is so inimitably affecting. This book is both a wonderful antechamber to Lewis's wardrobe portal and a convincing attempt to rescue Aslan from the Christian imagination and embed him where he has always belonged--the human imagination."
-- Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things
"Reading Laura Miller’s thrilling new book about C. S. Lewis and his Narnia series is like sitting down with the smartest and least tendentious person you know and dishing your favorite books. I came away from this book feeling thoroughly informed, entertained, and inspired."
-- James Hynes, author of The Lecturer's Tale
"This is a magical weave of rich soulful criticism, at once a distinctive and insightful biography of C.S. Lewis, and a memoir of the author, who fell in love with Narnia as a wide-eyed young girl, and revisits it as a grown-up. Entering Narnia again, at once apathetic and anxious about its Christian allegory, Miller creates an amazing literary work: in uncovering the vulnerability and limitations of C.S. Lewis, she finds within his pages a limitless and lasting work of imagination and human meaning, for all readers, of all ages and inclinations. I couldn't put it down, even as I felt tremendous anticipation of picking up The Chronicles of Narnia again, forty-five years after I first fell in love with it, too."
-- Anne Lamott, author of Grace (Eventually)
"Anyone who believes in the power of literature will want to savor The Magician’s Book. In the end you feel as if you have had a stimulating literary conversation with a group of very smart and savvy friends."
-- Anita Silvey, author of 100 Best Books for Children
A rewarding study by a first-rate arts writer.
-- Kirkus Reviews
Jam-packed with critical insights and historical context ... intellectually inspiring ... anyone who has endured exile from Narnia will recognize and appreciate many aspects of her journey.
-- Publishers Weekly
"At a time when Pierre Bayard is teaching us how to talk about books we haven’t read, it is refreshing to come across an author who shows us how to talk about the books we love. Yet Bayard and Miller share certain beliefs, among them the conviction that our relationship to a book can be rich and complex, fraught and inexplicable. “Our relation to books is a shadowy space haunted by the ghosts of memory, and the real value of books lies in their ability to conjure these specters,” Bayard tells us. Miller conjures those specters, but she also moves us beyond childhood, revealing that the books we loved as children can continue to quicken and expand our imaginations, especially when we have a guide like this one to help us understand the miracle of how Lewis produced the intoxicating and addictive Chronicles of Narnia"
-- Maria Tatar, BookForum
When she was nine, Laura Miller, who grew up to become a literary critic and cofounder of Salon.com, desperately longed to visit a place that didn’t exist, C. S. Lewis’ Narnia. “For the rest of my life,” she writes, “I will never want anything quite so much again.” Though she felt betrayed when, at 13, she discovered the Christian subtext of the Chronicles of Narnia, her fascination with the place endured, and now she has written an agreeable and insightful book about its enduring impact on generations of readers. Her description of Lewis’ fantasies as “a grab bag” is a good description of her own book, which is part literary criticism, part biography, part autobiography, part tour of the places Lewis knew, and part conversation with other writers such as Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Franzen, and Philip Pullman. Though quick to acknowledge Lewis’ occasional racism, misogyny, and elitism, Miller remains fascinated by his capacity to create an entire other world that helped form her own imagination and her life as a reader. As a result, her sometimes affectionate, sometimes analytical book will delight both skeptics and true believers.
-- Booklist, Nov. 1, 2008 (Starred Review)
“I can’t read the Chronicles the way I once did, with the same absolute belief,”
writes Miller, yet in The Magician’s Book, she vividly portrays that feeling of enchantment. More than a literary critique or an exercise in nostalgia, these essays are
a tribute to the power and depth of story and imagination, and to the pure joy of
reading. Though the grown critic realizes how the magician does his tricks, some-
thing of the childhood magic remains.
-- Trisha Ping, BookPage, December 2008
The Magician's Book constitutes a return of sorts. It recounts Ms. Miller's thoughtful and humane journey back to an appreciation of what Lewis created. But it is more than a personal story: It is also an exploration of Lewis's life, his intellectual inclinations and his literary friendships, as well as an extended meditation on the "soul-shaping potential" of reading itself. ... Ms. Miller doesn't give Lewis a complete pass for expressing such retrograde chauvinism, but it's a continually refreshing characteristic of The Magician's Book that she comes down, again and again, on the side of imaginative liberality.
-- Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 6, 2008
The Magician's Book is an engrossing story of a reader's education. Empathetic, rigorous, erudite, funny, generous and surprising, it is easily the best book ever written about Lewis. Miller draws sound and dazzling connections among the details of his life and literary inspirations, which ranged from medieval epics to the Victorian forerunners of modern fantasy.
-- Michael Joseph Gross, The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 14, 2008
A welcome bit of magic: part reader’s log, part biography, part literary criticism... Miller has learned much from Lewis, not least a bracingly colloquial, honest, intimate tone.
-- Gregory Maguire, New York Times Book Review
Lucid prose and varied reference materials do a fantastic job sketching out the complicated terrain of Lewis' celebrated creation.
--Rehan Harmanci, San Francisco Chronicle
Beautifully written... The fascinating paths and byways she explores, however, make the meanderings of this journey entirely worthwhile, especially for all of us who ever longed to go still further in.
-- Sarah Bryant Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Truly original ... a wide-ranging consideration of "The Chronicles of Narnia," of their author, C.S. Lewis, and of their readers, critics, devotees, and exploiters....In the end, her book is a personal engagement with crucial stages in her development as a reader.
-- Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Globe
A journey of great pleasure — Miller is a wise, down-to-earth and often funny narrator. The result is one of the best books about stories and their power that I have ever read.
-- Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times
For Salon.com co-founder Miller, the "most momentous passage" of her reading life occurred in second grade, when a teacher introduced her to C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. Aiming to understand her fascination with the series, Miller has written an engrossing examination of the importance of children's literature. Escape, she contends, is the least of what alternate worlds like Narnia -- and Harry Potter's Hogwarts -- offer: Fantasy fiction allows kids to inhabit larger-than-life roles and make choices of moral gravity. Part memoir, part passionate reassessment of the lost literary pleasures of childhood, Magician is a beautiful and thoughtful journey back to why we read.
-- Danielle Trussoni, People
As is clear from her passages on, for instance, Lewis' marvelous descriptions and images -- or on his racial stereotypes -- she could have composed a first-rate, even original book of criticism. But Miller is intent on something more (as well as something more appealing to a wider audience). ... in how and why we read -- what we take from books but also what we bring to them.
--Kerry Fried, Newsday