Goldstein, Lisa 1953–
Goldstein, Lisa 1953–
PERSONAL: Born November 21, 1953, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Harry George (an accountant) and Miriam (Roth) Goldstein; married Douglas Asherman, January 12, 1986. Education: University of California, Los Angeles, B.A., 1975. Politics: "Situationist."
ADDRESSES: Home—Oakland, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Tor Books, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Dark Carnival Bookstore, Berkeley, CA, coowner, 1976–82.
AWARDS, HONORS: Porgie Award for best original fantasy paperback from West Coast Review of Books, 1982, and National Book Award for best original paperback, 1983, both for The Red Magician.
The Red Magician (fantasy novel), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1982.
The Dream Years (fantasy novel), Bantam (New York, NY), 1985.
A Mask for the General (science fiction), Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Tourists (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
The Red Magician, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
Travellers in Magic, Tor (New York, NY), 1994.
Summer King, Winter Fool, Tor (New York, NY), 1994.
Walking the Labyrinth (fantasy novel), Tor (New York, NY), 1996.
Dark Cities Underground (fantasy novel), Tor (New York, NY), 1999.
The Alchemist's Door (fantasy novel), Tor (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Lisa Goldstein's award-winning novel The Red Magician relates the story of a young Jewish woman's coming of age during the time of the Holocaust. Although the novel is set during the Holocaust, Tom Easton indicated in Analog that "the story is one of maturation. The magic is that of puberty, of confrontation between old and new." Paul McGuire noted in the Science Fiction Review: "There are finely written scenes of the supernatural, but its power is in the wisdom of its theme, the ability of the human spirit to triumph."
Goldstein's second novel, The Dream Years, met with a somewhat less positive critical response, however. The story "enlists its dramatis personae from the surrealists of the twenties and carries them through a time-warp so they can participate in the Paris uprisings of May 1968, and on to another, successful revolution in some vaguely drawn future," wrote Bart Testa in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Testa faulted the novel partially because of what he detected to be "an indecisiveness whether the book is about a modern woman's visit to the past or a poet's visit to the future." However, Gerald Jonas acknowledged in the New York Times Book Review that "in terms of its own ambitions, The Dream Years, must be accounted a failure, but it is an honorable, fascinating failure that makes one eager to read more of Lisa Goldstein's meditations on life and art."
Goldstein's more recent A Mask for the General blends fantasy and science fiction into a tale about an economically collapsed United States under the rule of a dictator in the twenty-first century. John Gregory Betancourt called the novel both "powerful" and "brilliant," further stating in the Washington Post Book World that "more than a synthesis of fantasy and sf, A Mask for the General also offers clear and crisp writing, well-drawn characters and a believable background. It's easy to see why Lisa Goldstein's first novel, The Red Magician, won a National Book Award in 1983."
Adventures into the past are part of two more recent Goldstein fantasy tales: Walking the Labyrinth and The Alchemist's Door. The former, described by Charles de Lint in a Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction review as a "fascinating case study for how the past affects the present and that we can't entirely deal with the present until we've dealt with the past," is about a modern-day San Francisco woman who discovers that her family was involved in the Order of the Labyrinth. Learning that her Aunt Fentrice had lied to her and that many of her family are actually still alive, Molly Travers goes to England to encounter many of her relatives, who have been involved in magic since Victorian times. The novel jumps back and forth in time, relating Molly's experiences and, through diaries and journals, those of her ancestors; rivalries between family members are a central theme in the book. De Lint praised Goldstein's economical style and characterization, adding: "Her take on magic, what it should be used for and how some would use it, is both whimsical and dangerous—which is how it should be."
The Alchemist's Door is set in the sixteenth century and features the real-life alchemist John Dee. When Dee accidentally summons up a demon in an attempt to contact the spiritual world, he and his assistant end up fleeing for their lives to Poland. Here they encounter Rabbi Loew, who is searching for the thirty-six righteous men whose lives hold together the very existence of the world; they also meet King Rudolf, who seeks to kill these men and remake the world according to his own design. Attempting to foil Rudolf, Dee dabbles in magic again, creating a golem only to again find that such experiments can have severe consequences. Although a Publishers Weekly contributor felt the story sometimes meanders, the reviewer praised the author's "strong message about the cost of power and pride."
Reviewers also enjoyed Goldstein's fantasy Dark Cities Underground. When Ruth Berry contacts famous children's author E.A. Jones in order to write a biography about him, she never expects to discover that his fantasy world is actually based on a real place. A villain soon appears in the form of Barnaby Sattermole, who kidnaps Ruth's daughter in an attempt to force Jones to show him how to gain access to the world of Neverwas. Critics praised Goldstein's take on the theme of children's fantasy literature actually being real, lauding how the author inserts parts of literary classics such as The Wind in the Willows and Peter Pan into the tale. Writing again in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, de Lint declared the novel to be a "delightful excursion that's equal parts charming and harrowing." Although a Publishers Weekly contributor felt the tale was somewhat "overplotted," the critic enjoyed how the story "moves rapidly, building momentum as each secret is revealed." Ray Olson similarly observed some plotting problems in his Booklist review, but concluded that Dark Cities Underground is "engrossing entertainment."
Goldstein once told CA: "The Red Magician is based to some extent on stories my mother told me about growing up in a small village in Hungary before World War II. It became a fantasy novel partly because, since I had never been to Hungary, I was free to populate the village with golems and magicians and curses and whatever else I could imagine. I've also always been interested in fantasy as a sort of modern mythology, in the way fantasy can be used (much like dreams can be used) to say something about reality, ours and others."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Analog, June, 1982, Tom Easton, review of The Red Magician.
Booklist, May 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Dark Cities Underground, p. 1678.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), November 30, 1985, Bart Testa, review of The Dream Years.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 1996, Charles de Lint, review of Walking the Labyrinth, p. 34; September, 1999, Charles de Lint, review of Dark Cities Underground, p. 27.
New York Times Book Review, October 20, 1985, Gerald Jonas, review of The Dream Years.
Publishers Weekly, May 10, 1999, review of Dark Cities Underground, p. 62; July 8, 2002, review of The Alchemist's Door, p. 36.
Science Fiction Review, summer, 1982, Paul McGuire, review of The Red Magician.
Washington Post Book World, November 29, 1987, John Gregory Betancourt, review of A Mask for the General.
Lisa Goldstein's Official Web site, http://www.brazenhussies.net/Goldstein (January 16, 2006).