MARGIN: Exploring Modern Magical Realism
MARGIN: Exploring Modern Magical Realism

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30 January 2006
Topic: January 2006

[1.30.06] Good fun for fans of Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus—if you can attend, you should see the Kneehigh production summarized here by Independent stage reviewer Paul Taylor: "Sizeable tracts of the novel have been excised—including the final Siberian section. But with the central couple eventually somersaulting in a rapturous aerial display of hard-won parity, Carter's myth has not had its wings clipped." Taylor gave it 3 stars, but his review seemed more glowing than that to me; at any rate, it sounds like just the ticket for fans of the carnivalesque.

[1.30.06] Okay, we heard that Gabo was suffering from a spell of writer's block? He now admits to not having written a word for the entirety of 2005, and that he does not plan to write anymore. It's all over the web. Boohoo, say it ain't so, Gabo.

[1.30.06] Box Office Prophets Monday Morning Quarterbacks have been giving the recently released family film, Nanny McPhee, a strong set of predictions for the coming weeks. Writes Reagen Sulewski: "It's tough to go wrong with magical realism these days…" [cheers from the MARGIN home office!] but then Sulewski continues, "—Harry Potter really opened things up." Oh, don't get me started. Harry Potter is not MR. Harry Potter is not MR. Repeat after me… I haven't seen the latest take on Mary Poppins yet, but when I do, I'll let you know what I think [TKS, editor].

[1.30.06] Sundance Update: Congratulations to Vancouver director Julia Kwan, who won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival last Saturday for her debut feature film, Eve & The Fire Horse, featured here last Friday.

[1.30.06] Discovered, today: A wealth of imagination in PEN America 6: Metamorphosis. This wonderful issue came out in 2005 but I'm only now perusing it. What a treasury! A veritable showcase of some of MR's finest [Edith Grossman, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, Angela Carter, George Saunders, Ben Okri, Yusef Komunyakaa, Luis Bu?uel, Jorge Luis Borges]. Get thee to their website and order your copy now!

[1.15.06] Overhead at a local poetry reading at the Jewel Box Theater in Poulso, WA: a wonderful magical realist poem by John Willson. You'll be able to find the poem, which features a literate aardvark, among other things, as part of a broadside series presented by the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council this coming spring. Stay tuned for more info.

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27 January 2006
Topic: January 2006

[1.27.06] BBC News ran a lovely tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez today as part of it's Faces of the Week feature. Meanwhile, The Independent reports that Gabo "has confessed to suffering from that most humble of literary problems: writer's block" for over the course of a year. Garcia Marquez, 78, has suffered lymphatic cancer over the last 7 years, and certainly blames part of his lack of productivity on that, but also attributes some of his challenges to "computer difficulties." Someone get that man a better computer! His fans are chomping at the bit, waiting for him to pen the second and third books in his trilogy of memoirs, Living to Tell the Tale. Chin up, Gabo. You've got your work cut out for you.

[1.27.06] Okay, Steven Soderburgh's latest release, a humble little film entitled Bubble, is getting rave reviews from AP Movie Writer David Germain for "minutiae, the painstaking detail—creepy tableaux of dolls’ heads, lingering shots of inanimate objects that take on import later, tiny moments of magical realism." The movie will be released in dramatic fashion, with a near-simultaneous release on screen, TV (tonight on HDNet) and DVD (Tues Jan 31) that marks a first test case for potential film distribution in the future.

[1.27.06] British author Clive Sheldon released his magical realist novel, Love, Loss and Oranges today. From the press release: "At times hilarious, at times heart wrenching, the story, in the style of magic realism, follows the attempts of the central character to come to terms with the death of his estranged wife. Strangely unmoved by this event he is more concerned with the apparent disappearance of oranges from the world."

[1.26.06] Canadian filmmaker Julia Kwan made her Sundance film festival debut January 26, internationally premiering her production of Eve and the Fire Horse, which is competing in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, a new distinction offered by the film festival. According to the report in The Vancouver Sun, "Eve and the Fire Horse is steeped in a sense of magic realism as it tells the story of two sisters struggling to reconcile their traditional Chinese heritage with North American culture." Hmmm, a Canadian Maxine Hong Kingston? A review in BC's arts mag, The Westender, isn't so sure. "Eve and the Fire Horse is beautifully shot and cast with actors who offer understated performances. But loveliness comes at a price, as the movie… becomes a oozefest 20 minutes in." Stay tuned.

[1.25.06] New in paperback: The Autobiography of God by Julius Lester. Vikas Turakhia, book critic for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer writes that "Booklist acknowledged that many readers will 'be shocked and angry' by [Lester's] portrayal of God but found the blend of 'magic realism and fierce spiritual debate with a gripping contemporary story' full of 'irony and intensity and sometimes dark comedy.' " Sounds like stimulating reading for fans of Jewish magical realism.

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23 January 2006
Topic: January 2006

Headlines from the last 2 weeks

What can I say? I am still so proud to see a short story like "Brokeback Mountain" turned into a major feature film. What does that have to do with magical realism? Well, if you recall, "Brokeback Mountain" was penned by the illustrious E. Annie Proulx of The Shipping News fame. One of this blogster's favorite North American magical realists, Proulx has out a new collection of magical realist work. Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 (Scribner) follows up her successful first collection, Close Range. Connie Ogle reviews Proulx's latest effort here.

Here's a nice tribute to Franz Kafka, written by Jacob Stockinger for the Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. Stockinger's explication of the popular term, kafkaesque, is given a thorough once over in this bit written to preface last Sunday's feature presentation, a free screening of the Orson Welles 1963 movie adapation of Kafka's The Trial, featured by the local Classic Book and Movie Club in Madison.

We've talked about young American playwright Sarah Ruhl here before (does Eurydice or Passion Play seem familiar?). As the San Jose Mercury News reports, she's back with The Clean House. Writes the Mercury News, "Ruhl's work often has been likened to magical realism, a label to which she has a mixed response. 'For me,' she says, 'theater is always about transformation. I think the only time I kind of object to the term magical realism is when it relegates what happens onstage to some fantasy realm.'"

Riffing on our recent article on Jewish magical realism/fabulism, here's a link to a new novel evoking Yiddish folklore. The World to Come by Dara Horn was recently reviewed by Ron Charles for the Washington Post. Charles wrote: "A doctoral candidate in Hebrew and Yiddish literature at Harvard, she's more devoted to ancient mysticism than chic magical realism." [Editor's note: wince…why must magical realism be characterized as chic? Is Cervantes' Don Quixote or Gabo's One Hundred Years of Solitude or Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson chic?]

Ring the dinner bell! Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate) has come out with what sounds like a literary recipe collection that fans are likely already salivating over. Here's a review of Intimas Suculencias, Tratado Filosofico de Cocina by Vicky Cowal for El Universal, in English for The Miami Herald.

Judy McAulay Grimes gives children's book author Julius Lester the thumbs up in The Clarion-Ledger in her review of his book, The Old African (Dial Books, 2005; illustrated by Jeremy Pinkney), for being an "inspiring book" on "black history." Which, of course, begs the reminder: next month is Black History Month. This magical realist tale might just make the perfect bedtime story or classroom feature for ushering in this important month.

The New York Times recently reported on Louis Sachar's most recent young adult release: Small Steps, which features the beloved character, Armpit, from Sachar's popular previous title, Holes. Reviewer A.O. Scott points out that this is a far more realistic storyline than that in Sachar's previous book, which might explain why Scott says that "Small Steps is likable and readable, but it never quite emerges from the shadow of Holes." This is quite a risk for Sachar, whose other work is typically infused with magical realist touches. Will reader expectations dilute the efficacy of this author's latest efforts?

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