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17 July 2006
MR OVER THE WEEKEND + COMMENTARY: McOndo and the manufacturing of literary movements
Topic: July 2006

[07.17.06]—Michael Martone by Michael Martone (Ficton Collective 2) has earned the distinction as the Litblog Co-op's Summer READ THIS! Selection this week. Maybe this isn't magical realism per se, but fans of MR will likely appreciate the book's unorthodox approach by an equally unorthodox (and excellent) author. Read an excerpt here

[07.16.06]—An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by Cesar Aira; Chris Andrews, tr.—Writes Ilan Stavans for—"More than fiction, [Episode] is an imaginative chronicle based on [protagonist] Rugendas' correspondence and other historical sources from the [19th Century]. To which Aira adds the novelistic touch: el beso de la fantasia—the kiss of fantasy." Stavans suggests, in the title to his review ("Latin Americans still tweaking the novel"), that the McOndo crowd may be fighting an uphill battle: "The future is unlikely to be kind to McOndo. As for [Roberto] Bola?o [previously discussed in this newsblog] and (on a good day) Aira, they will stand the test of time." New Directions, 2006 [English edition; 2000, en Espa?ol]


Question: Why does it have to be MR or bust? I may be a huge supporter of literary magical realism, but it doesn't mean that I expect all Latino writing to take on that form. Now, I know that the American publishing industry has made it difficult for Latin American writers to break out of their prescribed pigeonholes, and that's absolutely tragic. And I understand Fuguet's stance in McOndo, that the only way to break the circle of pigeonholing is to declare a new literary movement (whether it be Fuguet's McOndo or the Mexican members of the Crack Manifesto). But, as Ilan Stavans points out in his article [cited above], "Their objective was to turn Magic Realism on its head. But their novels were flat and repetitive and, in most cases, D.O.A." You can't blame them for trying in the name of literature, but it makes me wonder how successful movements in literature are made. By a conscious effort (such as McOndo), or more organically (such as Magical Realism), so that only in hindsight are the footprints recovered in the sand? It may have been possible, back in the day of Carpentier, Uslar-Pietri and Cortazar, to intellectually move literature into a new direction using geography, experience and culture in ways collective, but can this really happen today? With the global village erasing certain boundaries and consumerism weighing in more than intellectualism in the US, is it possible to create a new literary movement on purpose? Let me know what you think.

Posted by at 8:06 AM PDT
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