Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Little Talk About Magical Realism

The Spectacle had a post on magical realism back in February. I have read articles on magical realism that stated that it pertains only to works by Latin American authors like those agent Jennifer Matson mentions. However, I think of it just as she does--books "in which magical elements intrude, almost matter-of-factly, into a basically realistic setup, informing the novel’s various elements in a natural way rather than totally redirecting them. I also think of the magic as being very gentle and often surreal – nothing “high fantasy”".


Friday, February 13, 2009

A Little Something On Magical Realism

By way of cynsations, I found Jennifer Mattson on Magic Realism at The Spectacle. Mattson talks about what they're calling "magic realism," though I've always heard it referred to as "magical realism." (Picking nits.)

In the Mattson interview we get some definition and examples and discussion of how this genre fits in with kidlit.

Another example of magical realism--Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Magic For Readers

About a month ago, I was roaming in my local library's YA area when I came upon new a volume called Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. Now, this did not look like YA to me, and my longtime readers are probably thinking, Oh, Gail must have had a meltdown right there in the library because she needs everything to be very clearly defined. Well, I thought of it. But then I recalled reading something I think Roger Sutton once wrote about part of a YA librarian's function being bringing the young to adult literature. I like to think that I am teachable, so, okay, I was able to understand and appreciate that philosophy.

And I brought Magic for Beginners home.

Now, Magic for Beginners is a collection of what might be described as weird ass short stories. And I mean that in the best possible way. I will say right up front that they tend to be the kinds of short stories that I finish reading and go, "Ah, what?" There may be an epiphany thing going on here, and I find that with those kinds of stories I often don't share the main character's revelation. Nonetheless, these are endlessly inventive tales. I believe we're also talking nonLatin American magical realism, edged with a tinge of horror. Link is obsessed with zombies, for instance, so much so that by the time I got to the story Some Zombie Contingency Plans I was beginning to think, Yes, perhaps I should have one. One of her stories takes place near Ausible Chasm, which I assume is Ausable Chasm. When I was there, maybe fifteen to twenty years ago, the infrastructure for getting about seemed a little old and creepy. Perhaps there could be zombies down there who come up to go shopping at a local convenience store as Link contends in The Hortlak.

In addition to dealing with the magical in every day situations, Link has a couple of stories in this volume that sort of telescope into themselves. The title story, for instance, appears to be about rabid fans of a television show until you realize they also appear to be living within an episode of that program.

Many of these stories have YA or at least older teen characters, which certainly would make them attractive to younger readers. On top of that, part way through reading this book, I suddenly experienced a flashback to my own teen years. Back then, I went through a Richard Brautigan phase and have held on to the three books I bought then, even though I can't say I ever understood much of what's in them. Brautigan's attraction for me was that his stuff was weird and different, unlike the books I found in my high school library. His work was a tipoff that there were all kinds of strange and marvelous things out there to read, if I could only find them. I got the same thrill yesterday when I was in the UConn Co-op looking at books you don't find stacked on those tables at Barnes & Noble.

Link's work, to me, is far more accessible than Brautigan's, but it gave this reader that same feeling of possibility I remember getting back when I was first exposed to Trout Fishing in America. Magic for Beginners could very well encourage older teen readers to go looking for more of the same.

According to Link's website, she has a YA collection, Pretty Monsters, coming out from Viking.

You can read the first story from Magic for Beginners, The Faery Handbag.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Now I Get It. Maybe.

I was e-mailing BDT about golems today because he's reading the second volume of The Bartimeus Trilogy. (That will be another post). I mentioned Snow in August by Pete Hamill because a golem figures in that book.

Snow in August was published ten years ago. I'm never right on top of things, so I probably read it eight or nine years ago. I remember not caring for it very much, in part because I felt the fantasy ending came out of nowhere. Make up your mind! I thought. Are you a realistic book or a fantasy book?

Today I realized that Snow in August might be an example of magical realism, which I knew little, if anything, about back then. In fact, this magical realism site lists it as an example of magical realism for young adults.

I agree with categorizing it as a book for younger people. At the time I was reading it I kept thinking, If someone had edited out this long, dull part in the middle, this would be a kids' book. And, of course, if I had known anything about magical realism, maybe I wouldn't have found the middle long and dull.

Gee, I thought a lot while I was reading that book.