Tuesday, June 26, 2012

But It is Such a Lovely Farce

"How to: Magic"

Right on cue, little me's eyes go wide.


I will be the first to admit that when I could express my age in a single digit, I was taken in by "how to do magic" books.  I honestly thought I could learn magic from them.  Even now, when I read in fantasy books that characters look up spells or somesuch from a text, I think, I want that.

I want to learn magic.

What was little me going to do when confronted with books that promised to do just that? Ignore them? No, of course not.

And besides, sometimes the books even work.


Book Of Wizardry: The Apprentice's Guide to the Secrets of the Wizards' Guild
The Book of Wizardry, by Cornelius Rumstuckle

Yes, I thought I could learn magic from this book.  Did I?

No way, you would guess.  But wait - you do not yet know that this is the book that caused me to start recording my dreams.  And some of the other advice was quite useful: methods of relaxation, meditation, memory.

I cannot call up storms.  My "Wizard's Chalice" or whatever it was called holds my toothbrush.  Yet all it takes is for me to flip through the book a little and I feel calmer, more like a magician (which I what I'm identifying myself as, if only informally).

It looks like such a ludicrous book, but it has been so useful to me in little ways that even embarrassment at my gullibility can't stop me from liking it.


But perhaps I was too literal. Surely learning magic is not so easy as that.

Go subtler. Go to fantasy books where the characters learn magic, and copy what they do.

Think I'm joking? I'm not.

Fine: most of the time, the books assume that natural affinity for magic is a prerequisite. Don't make things explode when you're angry? You're out of luck. A society in which magic is well-established helps, too. But there are no wizards seeking apprentices in my town, and when we say chem in school we mean chemistry, not alchemy.

Still, the dreams of childhood do not let up easily. And sometimes, you find not what you were expecting but what you need.

Here is a passage from Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer, describing the main character's magic training:
(Photo credit: Goodreads)
"Look around you...Feel the wind, smell the air. Listen to the birds and watch the sky. Tell me what's happening in the wide world."
Magic through patience and observation. I can believe in that. No matter how intrigued I am by the trappings of a magician - globes of the moon, amulets, pentagrams, oracle bones - my concept of a magician is as much someone who thinks differently, who sees the world differently, as someone who has "stuff".

But still - if you've got a magic textbook that you don't want, I'll be glad to take it off your hands.

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