Some Preposterous Things Written by Lev Grossman

It’s official. Lev Grossman is the Uwe Boll of the book reviewing world.

ARTICLE IN QUESTION: “The American Tolkien” (via Locus)

1. “George R.R. Martin is fond of sudden reversals.”

Isn’t every author? It’s called irony.

2. “[T]his is as good a time as any to proclaim him the American Tolkien.”

Why? Because there are no more Lord of the Rings films to look forward to?

3. “an unstable amalgamation of nations caught in the act of vigorously ripping itself to shreds”

Someone needs a copy editor.

4. “Martin shoots the action from many angles.”

Yo, Lev, this ain’t a movie. It’s a book.

5. “Martin may write fantasy, but his politik is all real.”

Since “politik” itself doesn’t exist as a word of its own (perhaps he intended “politick”), the gag’s a bust.

6. “In the wrong hands, a big ensemble like this can be deadly.”

In the wrong hands, a review like this can be unintentionally hilarious.

7. “Martin has an astonishing ability to focus on epic sweep and tiny, touching human drama simultaneously.”

I suppose what Lev meant here is that Martin can on one hand tango on an epic scale, while concentrating on small moments a little later. This is not “simultaneous” by any measure, but might have something to do with these interesting units called paragraphs which must be carefully ordered to balance narrative. But since any good epic novelist is doing this, how does this make Martin “astonishing?” It seems to me that the man’s only doing his job as a storyteller. This is hardly miraculous at all. It comes with the territory. You don’t see professors handing out blue ribbons to MFAs every time they get subect-verb agreement right.

8. “Martin’s wars are multifaceted and ambiguous, as are the men and women who wage them and the gods who watch them and chortle, and somehow that makes them mean more.”

Lev Grossman has one, and only one, novelistic viewpoint that he can recognize. And that’s the whole idea of dualities being perceived in one “simultaneous” blur, without any attempt on Grossman’s part to parse things in even a vaguely structuralist way. Further, it should be clear even to a blindfolded and trigger-happy gunsmith that “multifaceted and ambiguous” characters probably mean a lot more than one-dimensional and unambiguous.

9. “What really distinguishes Martin, and what marks him as a major force for evolution in fantasy, is his refusal to embrace a vision of the world as a Manichaean struggle between Good and Evil.”

This shows outright ignorance of the fantasy genre and religion, and is a preposterous sentence to boot. And again there’s Lev’s obsession with dualities. (Um, isn’t Manichaeism a dualist religion in which a all-powerful force of good does not exist. As a result, would this not discount the many mages, elves, wizards and other assorted characters known to shift continents and overturn campaniles?) As the works of M. John Harrison, China Mieville, Michael Moorcock and Kelly Link will attest, fantasy moved beyond these one-dimensional, black-and-white and often uninteresting milieus quite some time ago.


  1. Don’t know much about either Grossman or Martin but “an unstable amalgamation of nations caught in the act of vigorously ripping itself to shreds” is correct — ‘itself’ is governed by ‘amalgamation’ not by ‘nations’. And “his politik is all real” is a legitimate play on Realpolitik.

  2. “Politick is from the German compound word “Realpolitik” which is made from the words “real” (meaning “realistic”, “practical”, or “actual”) and “politik” (meaning “politics”). ” Found this on Wikipedia when I did a simple web search on the word politick. At the very least you might want to do a little surfing before taking shots at another critique’s writing.

  3. “Martin has an astonishing ability to focus on epic sweep and tiny, touching human drama simultaneously.”

    Astonishing may be a bit much, but when in the same “scene”–even if they are “different paragraphs”–counts as simultaneous. Just because it is impossible to read two things simultaneously doesn’t mean that the contrast of small moments and epic moments are not coincidental: They are part of the same flow or episode.

    Just a small criticism. I came here from the Time essay, and I had to read the post where you called Grossman the “Ewe Boll of the book reviewing world”–a fantastic turn of phrase. However, I do not feel like that criticism is warranted.

    I’m not a Grossman fan and I certainly have not read anything by Martin but I found Grossman’s essay to be witty, sharp, and entertaining–three things that your pretentious writing is not.

    Pretentious? Oh, you mean having your blog’s deck read “a blog in tenebrous standing” isn’t pretentious? Does that even mean anything? Or is it one of those turns of phrases that sounds fantastic and profound but really is shallow and vacuous? Oh, and by the way, I love the white-and-green color scheme. It’s very tenebrous.

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