MARGIN: Exploring Modern Magical Realism
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7 July 2006

You'll notice I've been a little slow this summer, but magical realism doesn't take time off. I'll try to keep you up to date as frequently as I am able—that is, vacations, trips to the pool, day hikes and s'mores roasting notwithstanding. Always feel free to send me your magical realism news and tips to Margin News Editor. In the meantime, here's a little catching up:

Come read about our fundraising hurricane relief project, Southern Revival, at Square Table! (Which is actually my reminder to you to buy your copy before they sell out!)

Here's one for the foreign film buffs out there: Mathamma The Mother Goddess. This film, reportedly the lone Indian-American entry in the Bollywood & Beyond International Film Festival this year, was described in Telegu Portal as "based on the real life experience of one village woman." Much of the magical realism is reflected both in the beautiful landscape cinematography and director Parthiban Shanmugam's painstaking attention to details. This will be a good one to check out for those who'd like to better understand how magical realism is not only about what can be seen, but also about what is behind what can be seen.

Related to this: I'm taking a generative writing class by Curtis Bonney (of Seattle Surrealists) at the Richard Hugo House on "Unrealism," and one of my classmates is a creative nonfiction writer interested in seeing how "unrealistic" writing can be portrayed in nonfiction narrative. She might be interested in checking out Shanmugam's technique.

"I would advise you to park your logical faculties at the lobby before you watch The Lake House,” writes Rina Jimenez-David for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (seen here, reprinted at "Only this way can you fully enjoy the film, jumping willy-nilly into its incredible premise—that two people, separated by time, can write to each other and fall in love through the powers of a magical mailbox. … It may sound unbelievable, even a bit ridiculous, when the movie’s story is summed up so baldly. But trust me. There’s more to The Lake House than just magical realism, as its publicity material trumpets."

I like, which means I'll probably fall out of favor with the more "erudite" folks in the literary world. But so what? North American magical realism, whether it's as wonderful as its South American precursor, still deserves examination. (Personally, I think North American magical realism is nothing like its South American counterpart, which means, of course, that it's its own thing, which is what it should be. And there are plenty of South American magical realists who don't write as well as Gabo, folks.) Anyway?

North American magical realism is cropping up in all sorts of ways, including via the intriguing graphic novel form that's become so hip these days. recently reviewed one such title, Ghost of Hoppers, written by Jaime Hernandez and published by Fantagraphics. Writes reviewer Chris Barsanti: "It's a bit of a cliche to call Jaime's work magical realist, though he definitely has shown those tendencies."

[Soapbox response: Why some people automatically consider magical realist efforts or categorization as cliche is beyond me—is there such a thing as cliched mainstream or literary writing? You never hear it referred to in that way, but ho-boy, it definitely exists. So much of mainstream and literary writing these days is comprised of derivative characters and plots already done. End of soapbox.]

Ghost of Hoppers is Volume 22 in the "Love and Rockets" series (remember, these are essentially high-grade comic books—but don't let that stop you, since high-grade comics are all the rage these days). It's an illustrated love story, essentially, between two punk Latina bisexuals. Did someone say collectible?

Barsanti offers this advice for those new to either Hernandez or the genre itself: "It's hard to say how much readers who are unfamiliar with the work of Jaime (or his brother Gilbert) will get out of Ghost of Hoppers as a standalone—for those, it's best recommended to go out and find a copy of Locas [from which Hoppers was originally spun] and get straight to reading—but it's likely as good an entry point as any to the furiously romantic and melancholic world of Maggie and Hopey."

[of recent note]
A production of Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change recently showed in Washington, DC. Held at The Studio Theater, the play was summarized by All About Jewish Theatre thusly: "The Studio Theatre's new production features a top-of-the-line cast, a meticulous sung-through score by Jeanine Tesori (composer of Thoroughly Modern Millie) and an intimate staging that explores the not-so-colorblind relations between Southern Jews and blacks during the height of the civil rights era." The play originally premiered on Broadway in 2004 and broadens Kushner's reach by being utterly personal in its evocation of magical realism.

Posted by at 11:59 AM PDT
Updated: 7 July 2006 12:13 PM PDT
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