Francine Prose at the NYRB:
Perhaps something romantic about adolescence itself attracts young people to the exotic, to the magical, the supernatural and paranormal—the sort of fantasies that Magritte portrayed. Perhaps this attraction has to do with our growing awareness that we have outgrown a phase of life—childhood—when the lines between the real and the magical are blurred; by the time we reach adolescence, they have already started to sharpen.
As a child, I loved films in which there was an element of magic—Bell, Book, and Candle (1958), One Touch of Venus (1948), and René Clair’s I Married a Witch (1942)—films that provided something like what younger readers today find in the Harry Potter novels. My generation was fond of Carlos Castenada’s books about the Mexican shaman Don Juan, who took locally sourced psychedelics, spouted metaphysics, and performed daredevil stunts like a Central American version of a swordsman in a Chinese martial arts film. I’d stopped reading Castenada long before his fieldwork methods were called into question by his fellow anthropologists, who suggested that Don Juan may never have existed. For sentimental reasons, I’ve kept the Don Juan books in my attic. But I’m sure I will never reread them.