Bookworm thoughts: Magical realism

I’ve have Sarah Addison Allen’s First Frost sitting on my electronic TBR pile and I’ve been reading a couple of other Sarah Addison Allen book’s lately which has got me thinking about magical realism.

firstfrost

Magical realism, for those who don’t read it is a genre that on the fantasy spectrum but where exactly you draw the line is what got me thinking. Generally in magical realism the books are set in our world but there’s a fantastical element which is most often some form of magical/psychic ability that the protagonist or their has or sometimes ghosts play a role in the story. And there’s no real surprise that these abilities exist. Sometimes prejudice towards it but it’s accepted.

It’s a genre that I came across as an adult thanks to Like Water For Chocolate (I think I saw the movie then read the book).

LIkewaterforchocolate

Another well known, thanks to the movie, example is Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

practicalbook

And Barbara O’Neal writes women’s fiction that often has a touch of magical realism to it.

HowtoBakeaperfectlife

I’m not sure exactly why magical realism became a genre. Is it fantasy packaged to not be fantasy perhaps? Fantasy to appeal to those who might not read a ‘fantasy’ book. Fantasy with a literary bent? Urban fantasy also takes place in our world though there’s often a larger fantastical element, the addition of paranormal creatures (though there are urban fantasy that doesn’t have this). UF tends to have more violence and perhaps, higher stakes (more save the world than save the individual). Magical realism stories are often a woman’s journey story whereas UF tends to be procedurals (characters who are investigators or magic cops etc) or quests (or a combination of both). But Practical Magic has witches and a vengeful ghost who needs to be stopped which could be a urban fantasy plot.  I’m just not sure where one might fade into another.I read a lot of older English fantasy such as E.E. Nesbitt and Lucy Boston and Susan Cooper and Diana Wynne Jones as a kid and a lot of that is squarely our world fantasy with various degrees of the fantastical but they are all considered fantasy as far as I know.  It’s one of those interesting publishing categorisations that seem somewhat confusing. And maybe a barrier to readers of it finding other books they might like and readers of fantasy finding it? I don’t know. Because I really enjoy both genres and don’t think they’re so different. Just something that struck me as interesting when I was thinking about it.

Anyone got any deep (or not so deep thoughts) about this?

 

 

One Comment

  1. Magical realism authors that spring to mind for me are Charles de Lint and Isabel Allende. At one point my understanding of MR was it tended to be South American/Latin sort of derived. de Lint also comes into the whole UF (spec fic) vs UF (romance) thing too. Another angle I’ve gleaned from discussions/posts etc is that the “action” is not “Kick Butt” style, it’s there and there is momentum but it’s “gentle” (if that makes any sense 🙂 ).

    I’ve given up trying to work out the nuances of MR as no one else really has an overarching “definite” definition – it’s one of those very blurry ones (& I say this with the fact my stories could fall into this).

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