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FYI Magic Realism

RK Capps

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If you've ever wondered about this, here's an agent's perspective:

 

Hannah F

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Hmm. By her definition, I don't think I've read any magical realism though "The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock" by Imogen Hermes Gower was categorised as such, but it's set in 1785.

I also don't think I should try writing it since I totally didn't understand her critique paragraph.
 

RK Capps

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Yes, she lost me at the critique bit too! The bit before that I found helpful.

@Steve C, she's not telling ppl how to write, she's trying to help writers figure out where their book fits. At least, that's how I choose to read it. Agents want to know where your book will go on the bookshelf. This website helps writers figure out where they could belong, especially for the query stage. There are no 'others' to rely on (except other generous writers) until you're past the query stage.
 

Hannah F

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Could you imagine getting feedback on your manuscript (if you got that far) and not understanding a word of it?
 

Galadriel

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Magic realism, is by definition, a slippery term that defies definition. I think we can get too swept up in trying to determine the meaning of some of these terms. Re: the above agent, I can't help think that Wells is muddying the waters regarding some of MR's aspects. I don't think it has to be set in our 'current world,' for instance.
My own opinion as I see it, at the moment, is that MR is about lifting the invisible up onto the same plane as the Ordinary World. Strange things occur but we accept them, as if we can see further rather than be dazzled by what appears to be magical. I find it akin to poetry - the language maybe employed in an 'ordinary way,' but the deeper message behind the words resonates with something much deeper at our core. But we don't necessarily say, that the poem was magical, but rather that symbolically or otherwise, we've been touched at an oblique angle.
And further to that, may I point you to Wikipedia where there is a quote from Luis Leal: If you can explain it, then it's not magical realism.' :)
BTW One of my favourite MR short stories is The Prophet's Hair, by Salman Rushdie.
 

AnnieSummerlee

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This is such an interesting subject!! It's really hard to define genres.
But I find it odd that the agent doesn't include any examples of magical realism, but several of fantasy. Here in Spain and Latin America, magical realism is an established 'genre'. One Hundred Years of Solitude by García Márquez is the most famous example, it's basically the book that kicked off the genre. There are older short stories that have elements of magical realism like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or Kafka's writing...but Latin America's magical realism is where it all really kicked off. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is my personal favourite. Then there's Murakami, and the agent saying that there can't be a portal is kind of funny, because he uses them in some of his books, and they're still considered magical realism, not fantasy. When I read fantasy or Magical Realism, I can't help feel they are completely different, the latter is a 'literary' genre, so the plot/themes aren't going to follow the structure you usually find in fantasy. There's no awe or wonder in the magical elements, they're just part of life (hence the realism). There are obviously going to be some novels that blend both (think Ghibli movies), and there's 'literary' Fantasy...but the whole 'literary' label is a nightmare. I guess it just depends on the country. It's a genre that's only now gaining popularity in English, but in Spanish-speaking cultures, has been present since the 60s .
 
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