Naomi, has written a terrific guest blog post to go along with my review in the previous posting on my blog. Do not forget to read the review and sign up to win a copy of the book. I would like to thank her immensely for taking part on my blog and offering such great insight on the magic realism genre. Enjoy!
Life is a magical realism novel
A guest post by Naomi Bulger, author of Airmail
I remember my first encounter with the literary genre we call ‘magical realism’ and it was… magic.
When the seventh generation of the Buendía family was born with a pig’s tail, the general response was not “what on earth?” as one would expect, but, “we knew it!” The Buendías had feared this eventuality for decades. The Buendías were the central family in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, and they changed forever the way I not only read, but lived.
Magical realism is not fantasy. It is real magic. Generally, magical realism novels are set in worlds very much like yours or mine. The only difference is that when completely irrational or magic things happen, the inhabitants of such worlds tend to respond with a shrug, rather than a shriek.
“Did you hear? Amaranta’s baby boy has a pig’s tail!” One old lady may say to another at the marketplace. “Goodness. Tut tut,” her neighbour will likely respond, followed by an equally enthusiastic, “What lovely aubergines they have this time of year!”
I spent my childhood reading fantasy: The Hobbit, the Narnia books, The Owl Service and Japanese fable Urashima Taro were stories I revisited with regularity.
But as I grew older, I found my taste for this genre waned. Unlike many in my junior high class, I just couldn’t get into the Clan of the Cave Bear books. Instead, I became infatuated with the classics, big emotional dramas that set my schoolgirl heart a-fluttering, like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the more reserved but equally appealing Pride and Prejudice.
That was until a friend gave me One Hundred Years of Solitude. I devoured this book, and quickly followed it up with Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which had been beautifully adapted into a movie that same year. Also at the movies, I watched The Secret of Roan Inish. Then I started reading Isabel Allende, and Jeanette Winterson, and she led me to Virginia Woolfe. Oh my!
These writers introduced me to a whole new literary realm, that of magical realism. I didn’t need vampires, or hobbits, or elves. Instead I had the extraordinary, blended in with the ordinary, at my fingertips.
A woman’s passions were absorbed into the meals she cooked, and created intense emotions in the people who ate them. A baby boy was nurtured by the sea for many years, protected because his ancestor was a selkie (half woman, half seal). A woman had her heart stolen and literally sown into a tapestry. And a poet named Orlando started life in the Middle Ages as one gender, and then traversed through time, love and sex for centuries.
Magic realism changed the way I saw my daily life. No longer did I yearn to live in a land of dragon-slayers or spells. My own world held infinitely more wonder.
At any moment, magic happens around us but, like the characters in a magical realism novel, we are often so caught up in our daily burdens that we miss the wonder.
Have you ever seen the aurora borealis?
Or photographs of a supernova in space? In space, where people actually travel? Sometimes, babies really are born with tails!
And all over the world, there are ancient mysteries that we still cannot explain despite millennia of trying.
Who knows what is around the corner! Magical realism in literature is fantastic, surprising, and beautiful. But the greatest lesson it has taught me is that life can be the same.
My question for you: What is the most magical thing you have witnessed in this world?
Airmail, a new magic realism novella by Naomi Bulger, was published in April 2011, and is available online at Barnes & Noble.
And numerous other good bookstores. Naomi maintains a blog about writing, creativity and the absurdities of life at www.naomibulger.com, and she promises to write a personal letter of thanks to everyone who buys a copy of Airmail.