I have once again re-read this book. (I blame my Narnia re-read, and also I wanted to read it one last time before I started watching the TV show.)
My past self would be devastated to learn I have gotten even more out of this read than I did the last. I still really dislike most of these characters, especially when we reach the middle section after they graduate from Brakebrills and become disaffected young adults. I never went through this stage of life and feel a sort of helpless contempt for people who did (it really brings out the selfishness and cruelty in a person). As Alice notes later in the book, their perspectives are so warped and they have no sense of how privileged and full of opportunities their lives are, and that their being so miserable is a choice.
I also noticed this go-round how early Grossman had seeded the themes he would eventually bring to fruition in book three. I particularly enjoyed all the musings on time, and on emotional maturity, and where magic comes from and how it is used. (There was this great moment where Dean Fogg muses that he thinks magic comes from unhappy people who have learned to channel that unhappiness into action.) It’s frustrating to see Quentin bumbling through his life being so abominable, but the payoff for me at least when he has his epiphany in book three is totally worth it.
Revisiting book two next month.
“I have a little theory that I’d like to air here, if I may. What is it that you think makes you magicians?” More silence. Fogg was well into rhetorical-question territory now anyway. He spoke more softly. “Is it because you are intelligent? Is it because you are brave and good? Is is because you’re special?
“Maybe. Who knows. But I’ll tell you something: I think you’re magicians because you’re unhappy. A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in your chest was? A magician is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.
“Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”