September 25, 2013

Not In Kansas Anymore by Christine Wicker

I wanted to give this book five stars just because the author used the word "kairos" in it. But sadly I had to actually review it on all of its merits, not just the particular use of a word. And having read Wicker's "Lily Dale" I had high expectations going into this book that just weren't fulfilled.

Not In Kansas Anymore attempts to explain how magic is invading America (or maybe already has been completely submersed in the culture). Wicker travels around the country attending parties of vampires, meetings of hoodooists, ceremonies of Wiccans and talking to people who have some kind of belief in magic, magical beings, or spiritualism outside of the realm of mainstream religions. Throughout the book she intersperses history telling the tale of the founder of Wicca, several notable historical figures who dabbled in alchemy or other magical pursuits, and the persecution of those associated with magic. But in reality, most of this book read like a memoir telling of Wicker's own experiences and her feelings towards the different types of magic.

This book is Wicker-centric. That means she is telling you how she feels about the magic and how she experiences it. While at the same time telling you she's a skeptic and doesn't believe anything about it. Since I thought this was going to be more following her line of work as a journalist, it wasn't something I expected because I figured she'd just report on what she observed and not inflict her own bias on the information. She also seeks out some really strange characters in all of these magical realms. It's not the everyday people that you would actually be curious about how they like magic, but rather the ones that dress in full goth or parade themselves as magical beings. I more wanted to hear about the secretive ones. Still, she does get some good stories out of these outrageous people.

This book didn't change any of my thoughts on magic, spiritualism and other such things. Since I read it as a memoir and history book it just didn't provide evidence for me one way or the other because I wasn't sure of the validity of the narrator. The writing in this book was very choppy compared to some of her other works too. It bounced all over the place. Instead of being laid out in chapters such as "Hoodoo", "Vampires", etc. it was laid out in themes such as "Weird Looking People" or "Werewolves Just Want To Have Fun." Ok, so those sound like they are about a specific thing, but really hoodoo pops up in nearly every chapter as does Wicca and a few other things. There's no streamlining too it and it's disorienting. I would have preferred she separate her subject so we don't get used to reading about one thing, then start reading about another, and then all of a sudden we're back to the first thing again. And the subtitle of the book "A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America" is a bit misleading because it had more history and things that happened in previous decades than what is going on in the more recent decades (aside from Wicker's own experiences that is).

Lily Dale was a great book. This one was not. I can't say that I enjoyed it very much and I was really hoping too as the premise sounded intriguing. It won't put me off of Wicker's books entirely, but I really hope any future ones are more written like Lily Dale than Not In Kansas Anymore.

Not In Kansas Anymore
Copyright 2005
264 pages + sources

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