: New: Book Report: The Magus

ARGers and Situationists talk about this novel: its plot is something like that of the movie The Game, a sort of paranoid story in which several people playact around our protagonist, hoping to effect psychological change. It's LARPing set in the world. I slogged through it, emerged at the end still not sure what I was supposed to get out of it. This novel was written back in the 1950s. The actors in the story, justifying their actings, bring up not-so-credible psychological theories. Maybe the novel's trying to tell me that the actors were faking their reasons? (They do that in other ways over the course of the story.) But for all I know, maybe back in the 1950s, those were the fashionable theories. Maybe the novel was trying to tell me the actors' sophistication?

Still, in case you had any doubt that LARP games and puzzle hunts are different, here's a note from the introduction (emphasis mine):

Novels, even much more lucidly conceived and controlled ones than this, are not like crossword puzzles, with one unique set of correct answers behind the clues—an analogy (“Dear Mr. Fowles, Please explain the real significance of…”) I sometimes despair of ever extirpating from the contemporary student mind.
When something in the book doesn't hold together, it's never clear whether it's the fault of the book or the fault of the play-actors who are improvising and lying their way through the narrative.

I guess you could say that this is "deep" and calls into question the whole way that we suspend disbelief for novels versus the way this book's protagonist goes along with the "game" around him. But by this time, I've bumped into enough meta-narratives to be jaded.

Oh, and it's partially set in England, so when there's a crossword bit in the novel, it's a cryptic:

[Alison asked,] 'That reminds me. A crossword clue. I saw it months ago. Ready?' I nodded, '"She's all mixed up, but the better part of Nicholas"… six letters.'

I worked it out, smiled at her. 'Did the clue end in a full-stop or a question mark?'

'It ended in my crying. As usual.'

And the bird above us sang in the silence.

A bird sings here, the coinage of "ornithosemantics" lurks elsewhere, one could probably treat this book seriously as literature, pick out themes…

I'll let someone else do that. I slogged through this novel. I guess I understand Situationist folks a bit better now. But I won't slog through it again to understand them better.

Tags: book puzzle scene

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