Harry Potter for Grownups

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Lately it seems like you can't pick up a new work of fiction without some character crawling out of the grave or casting a spell. Authors we used call "serious" and "literary" — shorthand for writers who wrote realism — are suddenly writing about the magical and supernatural. Colson Whitehead has a zombie novel coming out next month. Tom Perotta, who wrote the suburban story Little Children, has a new novel about life on earth after a Rapture-like miracle. And there are many more on the way.

These writers are bringing literary ambition to genres that were once considered lowbrow. So is old fashioned fiction on the way out?

Lev Grossman is a book critic and literary novelist. But his big breakthrough came two years ago with The Magicians, a novel about a young wizard. The sequel, The Magician King, just came out and is already a bestseller.

But Grossman says making the transition from “serious” to genre fiction wasn’t easy. “I had to come out to myself as a fantasy writer, at the advanced age of 35,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “It was a transformative moment — and not unpainful.”

Music Playlist

  1. Thriller

    Artist: Michael Jackson
    Album: Thirller
    Label: Sony
  2. Prologue

    Artist: John Williams
    Album: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Label: Atlantic