I love Paul Gallico's writing. He's probably known best these days for The Poseidon Adventure (1969), but I hope not. This one, The Man Who Was Magic (1966), remains one of my favorite books--not least for its portrayal of magic. My grandmother gave me my copy, back in the day. I vividly disliked the cover at the time, and consequently it was years before I actually opened it and read it. But from the first chapter, I was in love. I don't think I slept until I'd finished it.
Gallico was a bestselling writer in his own day, and he's one of those writer's whose prolific output hasn't served to cement his literary legacy. There is a tendency to dismiss him as a great "storyteller" rather than a writer, and certainly the archetypes in his narratives... could use some updating.i But when he hits it, he really hits it. There is a description of a little girl's uncomfortable spangled tights in this book--forty years after I first read that passage, it still has a special niche in my brain. There was an observed sympathy for her situation that Gallico understood, and I understood that he understood.
Gallico was a man who could write convincingly about human goodness, and human bravery. That's a rare and under-rated talent in our culture.