The invitation to the party for Lev Grossman’s The Magicians read “Apartment #0004,” which seemed about as plausible as “Platform 9 ¾.”
In fact, the party was on the second floor. Fortunately there was a man waiting outside to direct guests upstairs, as well as (more whimsically) a map of the novel’s fictional world posted alongside the elevator.
The third novel from the Time book critic, The Magicians follows the journey of a 17-year-old Brooklynite transported to “Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy.”
Addressing the crowd, Mr. Grossman said that when he began working on the book in 1996, his premise had seemed “fascinatingly original.” People chuckled.
He considers himself a Rowling fan, and has been presenting The Magicians at Harry Potter conferences. But, he pointed out to The Observer, there’s a lot missing from the Harry Potter books for an adult reader. Sex, most obviously. In any case, Mr. Grossman gamely included some “wizard rock” (“wrock,” in the parlance of the rabid Potterites he’s profiled) in the party play list along with some Neutral Milk Hotel.
He said that his novel’s less obvious literary antecedent was Brideshead Revisited. Waugh fans will notice the homage, he said: “I committed highway robbery.” Brideshead is one of his favorite books, although he avoided it for years. “Its title is really deadly,” he explained, like The Mill on the Floss or something.
Hosts Belinda Luscombe and Jeremy Edmiston’s apartment was cozy in spite of its modern architecture. It featured industrial materials, a large outdoor trampoline, and someone named Spike’s height marked against a wall.
Ms. Luscombe, a senior editor at Time, called Mr. Grossman “a champion,” noting the Harry Potter reviews that required him to read through the night and write in half a day to make the magazine’s Saturday close.
Guests agreed The Magicians seemed like a page-turner. Viking Marketing Director Nancy Shepard said that it would take people back to the childhood experience of giddy, insatiable reading.
That’s actually an experience addressed within The Magicians itself: The hero reminisces about a childhood spent escaping into books, where “happiness was a real, actual, achievable possibility. It came when you called. Or no, it never left you in the first place.”
Real happiness: an experience eminently possible on a trampoline. As the party went on, guests gravitated outside to watch the hosts’ children bounce. The grown-ups circled, watching and laughing, but made do with undersize tumblers of white wine.