Assuming I don’t do any New Year’s Eve drunk-blogging. Not necessarily a safe assumption.
The end of the year finds me sicking out of work (for reasons of actual sickness) and reading The Golden Bough. Now I remember why in college I thought this book was the key to everything: because it is literally the key to everything. I mean, there’s actually a chapter called “Magicians as Kings.” Why did I not read that before I wrote The Magician King? I could have saved so much time.
[In case nobody flogged you through the annotations to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" in college, The Golden Bough is an amazing work of 19th century comparative mythology that basically tried to organize and cross-reference all religions and myths everywhere, teasing out their shared patterns, much as the magicians did at Murs in The Magician King. A lot of modernist writers were influenced by it. By which I mean they stole from it with both hands.]
It’s full of throwaway gems — like this one from Chapter XXIV, “The Killing of the Divine King”:
In answer to the enquiries of Colonel Dodge, a North American Indian stated that the world was made by the Great Spirit. Being asked which Great Spirit he meant, the good one or the bad one, “Oh, neither of them,” replied he, “the Great Spirit that made the world is dead long ago. He could not possibly have lived as long as this.”
It goes on to provide what amounts to a practical guide to when and how to kill a god. And I’m just reading the one-volume version. I actually own the completely insane 12-volume version — I inherited it from my dad — but I think we all know I’m not ready for that.
I’m partly reading it as research for what I’m calling, at least for now, The Magician’s Land. (For background on this, read — and/or subscribe to! — the Brakebills Alumni Associaion Newsletter. We’re almost at 1,000 subscribers; thousandth subscriber wins…a subscription to The Brakebills Alumni Association Newsletter. And a Brakebills t-shirt.)
It also feels vaguely appropriate for the approach of New Year’s Eve — themes of death, renewal, ritual drunkenness, etc. NYE is the one holiday of the year that I wholeheartedly embrace. This is because I’m an atheist and not very comfortable with organized religion in general, plus I need an excuse to buy a scary-expensive bottle of vintage champagne and stay up all night drinking it.
I shouldn’t need an excuse for that, but I do.
p.s. Ever wondered what the deal is with vintage champagne? Here’s the deal. Most champagne producers try to maintain total consistency year over year: they blend grapes and vintages and tweak the results so that every bottle tastes exactly the same. That’s why your basic bottle of Veuve Clicquot never changes, year after year. But when there’s an especially awesome year, they’ll bottle a champagne made from grapes that are all from that year. Those champagnes are called “vintage,” and they have more markedly distinctive characteristics than non-vintage champagnes. #themoreyouknow #winepedant
p.p.s. Herewith, an archive of the Brakebills Alumni Newsletter. I have just figured out how to do this.