LevGrossman

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Possibly the Last Blog Post of the Year

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 azithromycin purchase canada 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.


10 comments on “Possibly the Last Blog Post of the Year

  1. Jaimie says:

    What if I create 20+ email accounts and keep subscribing until I get that T-shirt? OH YOU KNOW EVERYONE WAS THINKING IT.

  2. M says:

    happy new year!
    i’m looking forward to it, sorta, it just means that this damn year is damn over dammit

  3. Leverus says:

    @M that’s the spirit

  4. Leverus says:

    @Jaimie I can honestly say I did not think of that

  5. Leverus says:

    @greg wow, I like the sound of that. got a recommendation? (though I’ve already splurged, sulphurously, for this year. something for next.)

  6. Chris says:

    I’ve always been afraid of The Golden Bough. I’ve threatened myself several times with buying it when I see it remaindered at BN but never have. I think it’s because I know it’s the key to everything and I’m afraid my head will explode. Or else reading it it will discourage me from writing through my own sort of comparative mythology in my head…currently making its way onto the page in story form.

  7. fontgoddess says:

    For more folktale/mythology morphology, you may be interested in finding a copy of the Aarne-Thompson folktale classification system and index: http://www.worldcat.org/title/types-of-international-folktales-a-classification-and-bibliography-based-on-the-system-of-antti-aarne-and-stith-thompson/oclc/57716857 and also looking up the work of Vladimir Propp. Folklorists have been dissecting stories and their meanings as long as there has been a field of folklore, and the themes and elements are surprisingly categorizable, or at least that’s what folklore index-makers have been doing surprisingly well.

    Another more modern and idiosyncratic resource is TVTropes.org. It is a wiki trope index that has descriptions and examples of a myriad of storytelling elements from a variety of media. It will also eat you if you are not careful, so set a timer if you go browsing there, as people have spent days wandering the tropes in fascination.

    One last useful online resource is the Encyclopedia Mythica, http://www.pantheon.org/ . It’s a very handy reference to a wide swath of world gods and story-figures and is more inclusive than many of the printed texts that cover the same subject area.

    BTW, have you seen the comic book “Jack of Fables” ? It’s a spin-off of Vertigo’s Fables series by Bill Willingham and features a location called The Golden Boughs. It also has a character who is a personification of the Pathetic Fallacy — pure gold for lit nerds.

  8. John L says:

    I was reminded of Campbells ” The Hero with a Thousand Faces” many times in the Magician King.

  9. Heather Head says:

    I spent many late nights (and early mornings following on the tail of late nights… and late mornings following on the tail of late nights) in the computer center (back in the days when you had to trek across campus to use a computer) pounding out word after word of nonsense about Eliot’s The Waste Land and its ties to The Golden Bough and Joseph Campbell and a bunch of crock about Carl Jung… all of which earned me an extra sash worn over a black gown for a few hours one Saturday in May long ago. Believe it or not, they let me wear the pretty satin sash despite the fact that I spelled The Waste Land wrong on nearly every page of my thesis.

    By the way, forget the damn tee-shirt. I subscribed for the embarrassing pictures of Leverus. Not that I’d say no to a tee-shirt, seeing as how mine are all in the wash and I hate to do laundry.

  10. Charles Phipps says:

    Hey, Lev, you have Christian fans too. Not all of us are crazy!

    🙂

    Admittedly, organized religions sometimes scare us too!

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