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They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell looks so perfect—high-gloss black dust jacket with raised bone-colored type, an old-tombstone font, the silhouette of a flying, thick-clawed bird—that it calls to its target audience with the seductive sibilants of Lucifer-as-serpent. Why not judge the book instead by its first line? “Some years ago in the city of York there was a society of magicians.” Harry Potter for us child-free folk? Lemony Snicket does Jane Austen? Yeah, I’m enticed. Or judge the book by its illustrations: murky little New Yorker cartoons for the damned. Just don’t ask me to judge the book by the whole book quite yet; at nearly 800 footnoted pages, this critically lauded New York Times best seller makes J.K. Rowling’s works look like kid stuff. Maybe I’ll be done with this magnificent doorstop of a tome by the time Clarke reads at 7 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th Street and Independence Avenue NW. $20. (202) 357-3030. (Pamela Murray Winters)