Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Magic Realism Blog

Just after I had published Girl in the Glass I went to an alternative literature festival in Leicester. I was still incredibly green about publishing and was unclear what sort of story I was writing. I knew it didn’t fit neatly into the usual genre headings that one gets on Amazon. I had got as far as knowing that it was a) women’s fiction and b) not quite fantasy. I was having a soup for lunch when I got chatting to another writer, who asked me what I wrote. I gave a short description and he repled “Oh you write magic realism.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Well Terry Pratchett described it as fantasy for people whose friends went to Oxbridge.”
“Oh,” I said thinking that indeed many of my friends were graduates of Oxford or Cambridge.
I wrote the genre down on a piece of paper, stuffed it in to my handbag and continued eating. When I got home, I could not find the paper nor could I remember what genre he had said I wrote.

A month or so later I found a review of the book on Amazon. The reviewer Iain M. Grant said:
“Zoe Brook’s novel is a true magic realist story. Its setting is a world that is not ours but is nonetheless recognisable. It is a novel in which the almost magical and vaguely supernatural are an accepted reality. Reading it, I couldn’t help but be reminded favourably of other authors. The setting and Anya’s sprawling and occasionally grotesque family put me in mind of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Having said that the harsh, epic landscape of the story and the fable-like quality of a narrative held shades of Paulo Coelho.”

Lawks a mercy me! Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my all-time favourite books. Now armed with the name of the genre I did a Google search and discovered not only that I wrote magic realism, but that I had been reading it for years and not knowing it. There still seemed to be a lot ambiguity in my mind about what constituted magic realism, but I think this was because the term gets used wrongly. I decided that I would get to know my genre better. But how would this be achieved?

I knew that in order to do it properly I should set myself a task, one which is public and which I would feel obliged to complete. So I decided I would read one magic realist book a week for a year and that I would record my progress and what I found out about magic realism publicly on a dedicated blog. For the purposes of selecting books for the blog I chose the simplest definition I could find.

It’s now a month since I started and I’m loving it. I have drawn up a to-read list, following suggestions taken mostly from Goodreads, where there are at least two Magic Realism groups and several booklists. The books are very diverse – some literary, some for the popular market – which adds to my enjoyment. The requirement that I review what I read has proved extremely useful in solidifying my thoughts on the book and the genre.

So after all that work what is magic realism? I’m glad to say that the definition I chose is still remaining true: “Magical Realism is a literary genre that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.”

Please do visit the Magic Realism blog and check it out, better still join me in my challenge or at least part of it. It’s on https://magic-realism-books.blogspot.co.uk

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