Book Reviews
The Magick Bookshop: Kala Trobe
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Magick Bookshop: Kala Trobe
The Magick Bookshop: Kala Trobe

Reading fiction in which the main character’s name is the same as the author’s always has a strange effect, even though The Magick Bookshop is a tome already imbued with strangeness. Imagine if you will a supposedly fictional antiquarian bookshop in Oxford, whose proprietor is an ancient mage learned in esoteric religions and the occult, and who employs a like-minded staff to sell the incunabula that share the dim interior with the spirits of nine dead midwives called Beth, and you’ll begin to understand what I’m on about. As if that weren’t enough Kala Trobe has dedicated the book thus: ‘In Loving Memory of Mr. Roman W. Malynowsky’ – the man himself. So is this book of linked short stories fiction, non-fiction or a combination of the two? My guess would be the latter.

Kala Trobe is clearly not only familiar with, but well-versed in subjects as diverse as literature (classic and modern, the more and less obscure), myth, magick, the tarot, the Quabalah, philosophy and psychology, and this makes for a fascinating read to anyone with some knowledge of, or interest in, these things. The idea of a magick bookshop wherein occult adventures become possible is little short of brilliant and I was surprised upon coming across this book accidentally that I’d never heard of it before.

And Kala Trobe at her best can write. There are passages of sheer delight within these pages, this from Witch in the City.

Jess has an empathy with vermin. His mind is not feral, but his gestures are all tooth and claw, forage and store. He is a creature of snickets and nooks, a nimble den finder. His papers and empty bags are nesting material. Hopping and skipping and scuttling between subjects, he tells me enough to reveal a man in a foxhole, recycling his own breath, studying the psychedelic stratum of the soil in preference to the grassy, airy realms above, where danger lingers.

There is however a somewhat odd pendulum effect in the book; passages of breathless writing reminiscent of chick-lit alternate with others redolent with less-used words and dense with learning, and one section has the first person narrator describing a scene in which her friends discuss her when she isn’t present. But hey, this is Magick, so I forgive her.

I did find Orpheus somewhat overwritten. I felt it could have not only been shorter, but more believable and hence more powerful if the names of all the main characters had been less like signposts to their Greek Archetypes and simply modern – Eurydice and Orpheus would have been enough without Calliope, Eagrus et al.

I couldn’t help an overpowering feeling when reading Thus Spake Ron, that here was memoir pretty much pure and unadulterated rather than fiction, written as a warning to young women of witchy persuasion against predatory ‘gurus’, in spite of the fact that the Kala of the book was reading the journal of another young woman, Lauren. This story should be posted on the web and made compulsory reading for would-be initiates. It led naturally to Witch in the City, supposedly the continuing story of Lauren, yet feeling again very much like the author’s own memoir, and I found myself wishing that she’d begun the book with these two stories and (rightly or wrongly) owned them. It would have placed her in the bookshop with a very human history, rather than have her as a sort of instant manager, both of the bookshop and the book and stories themselves.

But these are small niggles. The test of a good book is if you want to read it again, and I must say that I do. I love to read and learn, especially about Magick and the wide range of related subjects covered in The Magick Bookshop, and in spite of the stretching of credulity in places there’s a strong feeling of truth here too. Like the bookshop, Kala Trobe has her own unique style, and something might be lost were that to change. Can’t wait to read Magick in the West End.

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