Monday, October 18, 2010

It's a Magical Realist World After All

"One guideline (just a guideline, not a rule) for distinguishing magical realism from other types of fantasy is that in magical realism, no one controls the magic; there are no wizards. Magic just happens, much like the weather. Magical realism is often intentionally vague, and (as in Kafka's The Metamorphosis) it can be hard to determine if the protagonist actually is experiencing magical transformations, or if he's just going insane. To sum it up, magical realism is a story that takes place in an ordinary setting (this excludes futuristic space colonies, lost ancient cities et al.), where extraordinary or even impossible things are viewed as normal and thus, nobody really bothers to explain why such things happen. "

In November, the Cherry Hills Library Book Discussion Group will be talking about one of my favorite novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad) by Gabriel García Márquez. This book is a famous example of what is called the "magical realism" school of literature. I hadn't given it much thought before, but after talking it over with my co-workers who run the book group, I realized I am actually a fan of magical realism in fiction. Why do I like it so much? I enjoy reading fantasy novels, with their elaborately created worlds, but sometimes I just enjoy stories of everyday life that are slightly askew. I like to imagine that there could be magic mixed in the mundane day-to-day, that there is a deeper world than one I could see-often delightful, sometimes frightening. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude back in college, but I still like to suspend my disbelief once in a while. Here are some more of my favorite magically realistic titles, in no particular order:

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Dona Flor & Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender

For more about magical realism, check out these online resources:

Margin-exploring modern magical realism online

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