The Magicians by Lev Grossman

They [books] were where he went when he couldn’t deal with the real world, which was a lot.

It’s like he’s opening the covers of a book, but a book that did what books always promised to do and never actually quite did: get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better.

In Fillory things mattered in a way they didn’t in this world. In Fillory you felt the appropriate emotions when things happened. Happiness was a real, actual, achievable possibility. It came when you called. Or no, it never left you in the first place.

He was used to this anticlimactic feeling, where by the time you’ve done all the work to get something you don’t even want it anymore.

A case of poison fucking ivy, that’s all he needed now.

If this is a hallucination, he thought, it’s pretty damn hi-res.

Quentin recognized this motion. It was the motion of a bunch of high-powered type-A test killers getting down to their bloody work.

What if he’d stumbled into some third-tier magic college by accident?

He was going to sign the papers and he was going to be a motherfucking magician.

In Brooklyn reality had been empty and meaningless—whatever inferior stuff it was made of, meaning had refused to adhere to it.

Meaning—is that what magic was?—was everywhere here.

He had an air of magnificent melancholy sophistication.

He summoned up all the wisdom he’d accumulated during his entire life in Brooklyn. “Merits are for pussies,” he said.

The process of learning is a nonstop orgy of wonderment.

Why couldn’t they just let them stay? Would that have been so bad?

More lies, but what could you do, that was how you rolled when you were a secret teenage magician.

“It used to be you could say ‘friend’ in Elvish and it would let you in,” Josh said. “Now too many people have read Tolkien.”

He was in the warm secret heart of the secret world.

It was time he started acting like who he was: a nineteen-year-old student at a secret college for real, actual magic.

That guy was a mystery wrapped in an enigma and crudely stapled to a ticking fucking time bomb. He was either going to hit somebody or start a blog. 

But he’d figured out how to live with it. You just had to get some idea of what matters and what doesn’t, and how much, and try not to be scared of the stuff that doesn’t.

It was so easy to ignore people when you understood how little power they really had over you.

You can do nothing or anything or everything, and none of it matters. You have to find something to really care about to keep from running totally off the rails.

“I know you think it’s going to be all quests and dragons and fighting evil and whatever, like in Fillory. I know that’s what you think. But it’s not. You don’t see it yet.”

I think you’re magicians because you’re unhappy. A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in your chest was? A magician is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.

“Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”

Brakebills seemed like a lifetime ago—yet another lifetime, Quentin thought, reflecting world-wearily that at the age of twenty-one he was already on his third or fourth lifetime.

Yellow, the street awash with blue light—the delicate ultrasound radiance of the embryonic day.

It’s irregular and beautiful.

The world had become smaller and somehow lighter—nothing meant anything, but what was meaning anyway but a burden that weighed them down?

It’s a million other worlds. The Neitherlands are the place where all worlds meet! Who knows what other imaginary universes might turn out to be real? All of human literature could just be a user’s guide to the multiverse!

We could explore for the rest of our lives and never begin to map it all. This is it, Quentin! It’s the new frontier, the challenge of our generation and the next fifty generations after that!

It made him wonder what had been paved over to build the City, and what would be there if it should ever fall. Had there been woods here? Would there be again? This too shall pass.

But this, this was everything. Now the present had a purpose, and the future had a purpose, and even the past, their whole lives, retroactively, had meaning. Now they knew what it was for.

There was a sense of momentous occasion. They were embarking on a grand adventure on the spur of the moment. Isn’t that what it means to be alive, Goddamn it?

“That’s straight up Dungeons & Dragons shit!”

“Dungeons & Dragons, motherfucker!”

Josh speculated about the hypothetical contents of an imaginary porn magazine for intelligent trees that would be entitled Enthouse.

He’d undergone a conversion experience, flipped into full-on Renaissance Faire role-playing mode.

“This isn’t a story! It’s just one fucking thing after another!”

Getting high in Fillory, that would really be the ultimate.

“The forest must live.”

The danger would be going back, or staying still. The only way out was through. The past was ruins, but the present was still in play.

In a way fighting like this was just like using magic. You said the words, and they altered the universe. By merely speaking you could create damage and pain, cause tears to fall, drive people away, make yourself feel better, make your life worse.

“Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”

What the fuck, his cacodemon had glasses?

He could have eked out his sad wasted life with movies and books and masturbation and alcohol like everybody else. He would never have known the horror of really getting what he thought he wanted.

The trick was just not wanting anything. That was power. That was courage: the courage not to love anyone or hope for anything.

In different ways they had both discovered the same truth: that to live out childhood fantasies as a grown-up was to court and wed and bed disaster.

“He thinks he can use the Neitherlands to get to Middle-earth. He honestly believes he’s going to bone an elf.”