June 08, 2006


The Government Manual for New Wizards. By Matthew David Brozik and Jacob Sager Weinstein. Andrews McMeel. $10.95.

     Fresh from their sort-of-success with The Government Manual for New Superheroes, Matthew David Brozik and Jacob Sager Weinstein here apply the same sort of silliness to Harry Potter wannabes.  Their premise is that, if something exists, then the government will surely find a way to regulate and try to manage it.  So if there really are superheroes or wizards, there must be a department of the government charged with getting the super or magical beings to adhere to regulations, get the necessary permits, and behave themselves – to the extent possible.

     Wizards is a better book than Superheroes, which never seemed to be sure if it wanted to be a satire on government paperwork and bureaucracy or a simple let’s-have-some-fun volume.  Wizards isn’t entirely sure what it wants to be, either, but – perhaps because it clearly has some elements of the Harry Potter world in mind – it seems more focused and better directed than the earlier volume, which sprawled all over the place.

     Consider, for example, the authors’ discussion of the myths and truths about Wizards Prison.  Some of it is straightforward comedy: “Myth: Wizards Prison is surrounded by a putrid moat from which the screams of the damned echo without end.  Truth: Wizards Prison is surrounded by several inexpensive but clean hotels at which the visiting families of prisoners regularly stay.  Most have pools.”  But some is clearly tied to the dreaded Azkaban of J.K. Rowling: “Myth: Wizards Prison is guarded by soulless ghouls capable of sucking the life out of inmates by forcing them to relive their worst memories.  Truth: Wizards Prison is guarded by a highly skilled staff of caring professionals who are capable of sucking the life out of inmates by forcing them to relive their worst memories, but usually refer them to trained counselors instead.”

     Brozik and Weinstein retain this supercilious tone pretty much throughout the book.  There is cooperation between the magical world and what Rowling would call muggles, resulting in (among other things) “the passage of the Act Necessitating the Oversight of the Regulation of Magic through Affirmative Legislation (‘Act NORMAL’).”  There are warnings not to be fooled by science: “Scam artists will prey on the sick, selling them mythical, improbably named items such as ‘aspirin’ or ‘ibuprofen’ or ‘a plaster cast,’ when what their victims really need is a simple spell of healing.”  There are warnings against illicit substances (which include mushrooms that prevent users from seeing their usual visions), fraud (contact the Better Bewitchment Bureau), and “involuntary transubstantiation, insubstantiation, or ratiocination.”  There’s a section on earning the gratitude of the dead, and one on magical sports.  There are even helpful definitions: a magician is anyone who practices magic, while a wizard is anyone who practices it for a living.  This is all as light and fluffy as can be, certainly good for some mindless amusement during a year in which there will be no new Harry Potter book.  And some of it is genuinely clever, such as the list of suggested further reading – which includes, among other things, “The Seven Hobbits of Highly Effective People.”

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