‘Books may well be the only true magic’ ― Alice Hoffman

If you read and re-read Alice Hoffman’s novels (possibly with an initial focus on the “practical magic” series that concludes with The Book of Magic from 2021), you might slowly come to believe that books are the only true magic.

Some might suggest the magic is within the author and that in ways nobody can know, s/he transmits that magic to the page. Perhaps, but I doubt it. I believe the magic arises in the act of writing and the author only discovers its truth while reading through the manuscript.

One of my favorite Hoffman quotes comes from Practical Magic when Aunt Francis says, “My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

If one is normal, then s/he doesn’t consider magic at all, and should magic come up in a conversation, s/he will attack it as a scam. I’ve believed this since high school which, no doubt, accounts for the fact that my teachers considered me a troublemaker. I’m not sure “normal” shows a lack of courage so much as a lack of imagination and/or a simultaneous lack of the kind of curiosity it takes to “test the waters” when new ideas come to mind.

Perhaps the basis for a healthy aversion to consensus normality is an open mind. Having a closed mind seems to begin in high school where the goal of many students was “fitting in.” That was the way one became popular or even acknowledged.  In The Rules of Magic, we read that ““Other people’s judgments were meaningless unless you allowed them to mean something.” In school, it seems, we became addicted to allowing those judgements to mean everything.

I suppose this herd mentality is built into us. It’s not easy breaking free, though the right books will certainly help (Hoffman, perhaps?).

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series, a 1950s-era story in which the good guys battle the KKK. Save money with the four-novels-in-one Kindle edition.

Review: Alice Hoffman’s ‘The Rules of Magic’

The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Rules of Magic,” the prequel to Alice Hoffman’s 1995 bestseller “Practical Magic,” sparkles with the same wisdom and magical realism as the witching story of Sally and Gillian Owens did twenty two years ago. The characters, stories and writing style of this stunning prequel fit hand-in-glove with the characters, stories and writing style of “Practical Magic,” not an easy bit of conjuring for an author to face when going back to a story she told before she truly knew the magical rules when she first wrote about them.

This backstory about Sally and Gillian’s aunts Franny and Bridget (AKA “Jet”) focuses on a theme about life’s curses and blessings and what individuals wish to make of the fate and destiny they are given. Early on, Franny and Jet’s mother asks the sisters whether they’re opting for courage or caution in their unfolding lives. Their answers make for a cohesive story. Clearly, Alice Hoffman opted for courage when she traveled back to 1995 to continue the story of the Owens family.

The book contains wonderful surprises, making it much deeper than a family tree tacked on to the front of a famous novel many years later. The book offers its own multiple levels of depth and angst and joy while changing in positive ways the way many of us who read it will view the characters and themes of the original novel. (Emerging writers considering magical realism as a potential genre for their work will find both novels to be a demonstration of how an author can utilize magic and realism seamlessly in novels set in today’s world.”

While the ending of “The Rules of Magic” represents the best of all possible worlds for the two novels and their characters, turning the last page might be depressing for some readers. The reason is simply this: nobody wants the story to end because when it comes down to it, we need these characters, their joys and sorrows, and their magic in our lives.

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–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.