Piranesi was the very last book I read in 2020. I finished it thinking that it was probably the best thing I read in the entire year, but that I needed time to dwell on it before I could say for certain.⠀
I think two weeks is more than ample time. It’s not only the best book I read last year, but it’s also simply one of the best I’ve read in, I don’t know, the last decade? Susanna Clarke just writes the kind of stories I love reading the most: full of wizardry and wordplay and whimsy and wistfulness. Fairy tales, in other words, in their purest, most primal form. ⠀
Alan Moore, the comic book writer and actual honest-to-goodness magician, often writes about art as being true, literal magic, a notion that has always stuck with me:⠀
Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness. The very language about magic seems to be talking as much about writing or art as it is about supernatural events. A “grimoire,” for example, “the book of spells,” is simply a fancy way of saying “grammar.” Indeed, to “cast a spell,” is simply, “to spell.” To manipulate words. To change people’s consciousness.
It’s an interpretation I love, because while I don’t really believe in actual, wave-thy-wand magic, I sure as hell believe in the power of art.⠀
Which is all really to say, for what seems the hundredth time, that I think Susanna Clarke is a true mage, and I will read any spell she chuses to cast on the world.