Yesterday in The New York Times Book Review, David Orr wrote, “Fantasy of any kind tells us that the world we know is not the only one, nor the most enduring — and that truth can be anything but an escape or comfort.” And yet, magical realism and fantasy have been creeping into our book lists with ever-increasing frequency. For this reason, we asked Lev Grossman to curate a group of his favorite fantasy novels. Grossman is the author of The Magicians and Codex, and is the book critic for TIME magazine. He has also written for The New York Times, The Believer, The Village Voice, Salon, and Wired, among other publications, and his latest novel, The Magician King, is out now.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
When Lewis sent Lucy Pevensie through that wardrobe and into Narnia, it was an event akin to the breaking of an imaginative sound barrier, and the sonic boom it created is still echoing through our entire culture. Read those pages again: Lewis strips the moment of any foofy rhetoric of sentimental wonderment and builds it up purely out of concrete sensory impressions — the softness of the fur coats, the prickle of the pine trees, the cold crunch of the snow. Forget all the guff about Aslan and Jesus, and all the Freudian overtones, and remember this: he made the fantastic real in a way it had never been before.