Lev Grossman: Fantasy literature came first

Recently in an essay for the Wall Street Journal, author and book critic Lev Grossman mused on the lower class status that fantasy fiction garners from most adult readers. Fantasy literature, they seem to believe, is just for kids.

Grossman, the author of the popular “Magicians” series – which is written specifically for an adult audience, disagrees.

“All fiction is fantasy,” he protested. “Fantasy is the rule, not the exception. If anything, it’s realist literature that pretends to be real. Fantasy doesn’t pretend.”


Kerri Miller asked Lev Grossman to elaborate on this idea on Midmorning, and he had this to say:

Fantasy literature has a wonderfully long history – far longer than realist fiction, which, on the cultural clock, showed up around 11pm. There was a long period of time when most fiction was fantasy fiction – Homer wrote fantasy fiction. And the question whether it was for adults or kids didn’t really pertain. You sat around the fire or the mead hall or the scriptorium and you read your Homer.

Only recently – and I peg it to about the 18th century – did this idea that realist fiction – serious writing about how live now – is literature, and all this stuff with fairies and magic in it was relegated to fairy tales or children’s stories. That split happened relatively recently, and I think what’s happening now is we are repairing the rift. Magic is coming back into the world of fiction, where it’s always had a place.

You can hear Kerri Miller’s entire conversation with Lev Grossman by clicking on the audio link below.

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