Magical Realism

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#1
Does anyone else read magical realism?

I'm a huge fan of Isabel Allende, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Marina is sumptuous), Robertson Davies (The Deptford trilogy was astoundingly clever) and Gaiman who I think hits MR well from time to time. (Ocean at the end of the lane, for instance.)

Any other fans?
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#2
I liked that stuff when I was in high school. I read everything from Gabriel Garcia Marquez I think. I like Gaiman as well, but not for his magical realism, but because of the elements of creepiness and horror that his books have. His writing style is nice as well.

Nowadays I feel like magical realism is something people try to write when they wanna dip their toes in fantasy, but don't want to be burdened with being categorized as writing genre fiction, so they try to remain in literary field. Because they perceive fantasy genre and the whole fandom as something beneath literary world.

I'm quite disillusioned with it to be honest. I don't enjoy it as much as I did when I read One Hundred Years of Solitude so many years ago.
 

Sparrow

Journeyed there and back again
#3
I thought 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane', fell well short of Magical Realism. In fact I thought it was a load of supernatural crap. It didn't seem to have any foundation in mythology or fable, at least ones that I'm aware of. At times, it was more a supernatural horror story than having the subtleties I associate with magical realism.

To tell you the truth, Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and its sequel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul were much better in the MR department... and really funny too. There's something super cool about Thor the Hammer God standing in line at Heathrow Airport, and getting a bit testy at the way he's treated, and having it be written so matter-o-fact. It's also cool that Thor is so easily befuddled and has temper tantrums.

The only modern MR that I've liked, was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#4
It didn't seem to have any foundation in mythology or fable, at least ones that I'm aware of.
It definitely had.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Goddess_(Neopaganism)

To me the reason I liked The Ocean...wasn't because Gaiman showed his craft in adapting myth, like he did in American Gods. It was because this was his most personal book yet, in some sense more about Neil himself than any other he wrote, almost like a confession. Some parts are very much autobiographical.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#5
I've only read One Hundred Years of Solitude - and I've only read parts of that because I found it heavy going. I like the idea of the genre and want to read more of it though.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#6
I found Marquez a little heavy for my tastes, too, but hope to go back to it. Similarly, I was underwhelmed by Zafon's Shadow of the Wind but adored Prisoner of Heaven ( a related book, but they can be read in any order.) The genre does lean towards the literary, for sure, and can be a little dense but I think Allende's House of the Spirits shows a good balance. It heavy going in places, but with lots of light touches through it.

I definitely felt Ocean fitted MR, mostly because the magic in it was taken for granted and not questioned within the world. I, like @Alucard , liked the autobiographical nature of it, and that it seemed to very personal to Gaiman. (But I detested American Gods, as it happens - Shadow just did nothing for me.)

I agree an awful lot of what is classed as MR these days really isn't - they're often essentially stories in the real world with some magic attached, which isn't at all what MR should be. As such, the genre has become a little confused and finding the gems harder.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#7
(But I detested American Gods, as it happens - Shadow just did nothing for me.)
To me American Gods wasn't about the characters, Shadow or anyone else. It was a story about America itself. It was almost like Gaiman's love letter to the country itself. That's why I loved it.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#8
I think Alucard is right about Shadow and it raises an interesting point that I've been mulling over a bit recently - namely, stories where the character is there to drive the story vs stories where the character is there for the story to happen to. The latter tends to have less realised characters, but I'm increasingly ok with that, as it means more time focused on other things.

Anyway, I love American Gods. The concept of it is wonderful. The Amerikana of it does less for me, but having just done my first road trip in the US, I got a little more sense of it. There is something about people building mini-Stonehenges in their back garden, or seeing an Egyptian obelisk in the middle of nowhere, or those horrible little tourist shops...

Would Good Omens count as magical realism?
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#9
I love everything by Neil Gaiman. He's one of my favorite authors. However, the best Gaiman novels (in my opinion) are not listed here: Anansi Boys and Neverwhere. I absolutely loved these books. I liked Ocean at the end of the Lane too, but I preferred American Gods for it's grander scope. Ocean~ is definitely more intimite though (and waaaay shorter).

One of my favorite MR authors is Salman Rushdie. I really like his prose and eloquence and it's cool to see the erudition of the writer jumping from every page. His books are hard work, but they're also very rewarding.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#10
Good Omens - I haven't read it for a long, long time so I'm not sure. Rushdie is someone I keep planning to read.

I loved Neverwhere but think it's more urban fantasy than magical realism (although there are touches), Anasi Boys not so much.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#11
I think Silvion was speaking more in terms of his favourite Gaiman novels, not necessarily whether they are MR.

As for Good Omens, I don't think that's an MR novel. It's straight up fantasy. The main characters are an angel, demon and an antichrist, so just going from that and considering the setting, i.e judgment day and various supporting characters like four riders of the apocalypse, there's no realistic anchor to any of this.

I've been mulling over a bit recently - namely, stories where the character is there to drive the story vs stories where the character is there for the story to happen to. The latter tends to have less realised characters, but I'm increasingly ok with that, as it means more time focused on other things.
I've been thinking about this as well. Every time I pick up sci-fi, and especially older books, this question comes up. I have a hard time with old sci-fi because of this, because I'm a reader who enjoys character driven stories, and I find that in fantasy more often than in sci-fi. Old sci-fi often has some sort of message that it's trying to put out there, and it makes that its primary goal, while the characters remain cold and distant.
But sometimes these books find a way to have that balance between a deeper meaning of the stories and character development, and it's the best thing. One of those that is my favourite is Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination which features my favorite sci-fi maniac Gully Foyle. It's also one of the best revenge stories I've read.

Things can easily go wrong when the author is obsessed with relating some message or an agenda, or when he's only concentrated on the characters.
For example Babel-17 by Samuel L. Delany, where he's obsessed with language theory and exploring that, even though he has a great set of really curious characters that drive that story but he ignores them in favour of language.
Or in second example Royal Assassin (Farseer #2) by Robin Hobb, where she decides to suppress the actual plot of the series so she can have more room for character development.

Ideally for me as a reader it's best when plot and character development supplement each other, and are one is not discarded for the sake of other.
 
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Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#12
I've only read One Hundred Years of Solitude - and I've only read parts of that because I found it heavy going. I like the idea of the genre and want to read more of it though.
I reread that one a few years ago. Didn't realize it the first time around, but man is it depressing. Still love the imagery, though. Well, maybe not the baby with the pig tail being carried off by ants...
 

Darth Tater

Journeyed there and back again
#13
I love everything by Neil Gaiman. He's one of my favorite authors. However, the best Gaiman novels (in my opinion) are not listed here: Anansi Boys and Neverwhere. I absolutely loved these books. I liked Ocean at the end of the Lane too, but I preferred American Gods for it's grander scope. Ocean~ is definitely more intimite though (and waaaay shorter).

One of my favorite MR authors is Salman Rushdie. I really like his prose and eloquence and it's cool to see the erudition of the writer jumping from every page. His books are hard work, but they're also very rewarding.
I loved Ocean! It is a book that will stay with me and stand out forever. Neverwhere was on my TBR list and picked it up on a one day kindle deal a couple weeks ago for $1.99 so plan to read it soon. Never read anything else by Gaiman. American Gods totally has intrigued and tempted me big time for two years but is it really depressing? I cannot take that kind of stuff right now.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#14
I loved Ocean! It is a book that will stay with me and stand out forever. Neverwhere was on my TBR list and picked it up on a one day kindle deal a couple weeks ago for $1.99 so plan to read it soon. Never read anything else by Gaiman. American Gods totally has intrigued and tempted me big time for two years but is it really depressing? I cannot take that kind of stuff right now.
American Gods gets heavy at times, and is rarely light-hearted and cheerful, but I wouldn't say it's depressing and the ending is upbeat.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#15
It's definitely Gaiman's "darkest" work though. However, that doesn't mean it's anywhere near as dark as Abercrombie, GRRM or Bakker. It's just not as light-hearted (some might call it whimsical) as his other works.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#16
American Gods is his most serious work yet. But I found The Graveyard Book to be way more depressing just on the premise alone. And that's a children's book.

Just a side note
Anybody who liked American Gods and wants something like that, you should check out Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom (it's in my signature)
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#17
I really liked the Graveyard book once I got past the first, episodic, chapters.

With American Gods I didn't find it depressing as such (but it takes a fair amount to depress me) but boring. I know affinciandos of it will find that hard to comprehend but Shadow was so passive* and did little to draw me in, and so I got bored following him. But one person's turn-off character is another person'a turn-on.

*One of the funniest posts I ever read on a forum was a bloke who said he and his flatmates had a useless corkscrew that flapped aimlessly. They called it the Neil Gaiman male protagonist corkscrew. :D
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#18
With American Gods I didn't find it depressing as such (but it takes a fair amount to depress me) but boring. I know affinciandos of it will find that hard to comprehend but Shadow was so passive* and did little to draw me in, and so I got bored following him. But one person's turn-off character is another person'a turn-on.
Completely agree. I found it a rather boring quite forgettable book. Stardust is at the other end of the spectrum, one of the most amazing, magical and beautiful books I'm sure I'll ever read (although I'm not sure whether this would sit in the magical realism camp .. it's more fairy tale).
 

sn0mm1s

Knows how to pronounce Kvothe
#19
I like Gaiman's originality and the fact that his stories are standalone; but, I don't get engrossed in his novels. They are easy to put down. I usually don't recommend his stuff unless someone mentions they like something similar.
 
#20
I like Gaiman, Robertson Davies but all are good. I have not any specific reason for selection these two . I am a shoopkeeper and I have huge collection of Oswaal Books. If you need I Contact me.