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

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10 February 2006
Topic: February 2005

[2.10.06] Marina Warner stakes a toothsome claim, that Angela Carter's work is not magical realist, in her recent article for The New Statesman. But we forgive her. Her review of Carter's Nights at the Circus, adapted by Tom Morris and Emma Rice, simply glows.

[2.10.06] Sneak Preview: Margin offers a short list of magical realist romance films to consider viewing over St. Valentine's Day. take a peek

[2.09.06] And speaking of romance films: Melora Koepke for suggests Lawn Dogs, of all things, describing the film as "an odd magic-realist romance-that-isn't-a-romance between Mischa Barton when she was a kid and her family's gardener. It's one of the most beautiful nonsexual love stories I've ever seen, if that's what you're looking for." Okay, we're game.

[2.09.06] Theater critic Hedy Weiss for the Chicago Sun-Times condemns Jorge Ignacio Cortinas' rendition of Blind Mouth Singing as being "derivative," but also describes it in this way: "Part heterosexual fairy tale, part homoerotic fable and part anguished meditation on the way people often remain trapped even when they manage to escape, Cortinas' play is rich in mood and shot through with some vividly written scenes and characters." The play runs through March 5 at Chicago's Teatro Vista.

[2.06.06] Maya Jaggi for the UK's Telegraph doesn't get it right, frankly ("Last week's inaugural Hay festival in Cartagena confirmed that Latin American literature has moved on from magic realism"—huh? Is magical realism something that people cut their teeth on? Wrong!), but her article about Gabo's relationship with Cartagena is still a worthwhile read. Yes, Maya, thoughtful readers understand that not all Latino writers are magical realists; does it mean slurring a beautiful literary mode in order to make your point? We think not. Gabo is certainly no beginning author, even when he was a beginning author…

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8 February 2006
Topic: February 2005

[2.07.06] Congrats to Margin contributor Cantara Christopher, operator of On the heels of the nationally successful film, Brokeback Mountain, which features Academy Award-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal in a supporting actor role, Cantara has announced the June 2006 release of the book, Claptrap: Notes from Hollywood by Gyllenhaal. The title includes an introduction by Jamie Lee Curtis. For more information

[2.05.06] Lucy Ellman doesn't give Kathryn Davis's latest novel, The Thin Place, the best review in last Sunday's New York Times, but she doesn't pan it either. Even when Ellman describes Davis's magical realism as being "annoying" and "of The Lovely Bones variety," she concludes: "Nonetheless, she has done something great here, something heathen, anarchic, democratic. She has given everyone and every thing a voice: animals, plants, children, coma patients, even the earth itself."

[2.02.06] Magical realism isn't only for audiences in southern climates. North Dakota's Dickinson State University recently featured Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum in their annual Film Festival sponsored by the college's Department of Language and Literature. Movies featured in the Film Festival are subsequently added to what has become a burgeoning film collection in that university's Stoxen Library.

[1.17.06] Fans of Isabel Allende's young adult trilogy featuring Alexander Cold will be pleased to know that the first book in that series, City of Beasts, has been slated for film production. No more details available yet, but fans of the series (City of Beasts was an international bestseller in 2002, and Kingdom of the Golden Dragon and Forest of the Pygmies followed in 2004 and 2005, respectively) will be delighted to see a collaborative effort between publisher HarperCollins, Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures, who brought the recent success, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the silver screen last December.


Canadian Girl Out and Aboot—What I've been reading lately…:

"3. A short history of Indians in Canada— Thomas King. I love Thomas King. This collection of stories doesn't disappoint. Some of the stories are creepy, some are funny, some are creepy and funny. He excels at magical realism, and at making points about culture and ethnicity in Canada. He definitely read the writing book where the teacher stressed, 'Show, don't tell.' "


"After reading 'The Jewbird' your spirit feels elevated. At first it is very difficult to understand everything but eventually you can enjoy the way that it is written. The idea of choosing a bird to represent one of the characters says a lot of the imagination of the writer and gives a magical realism tone to the story."

Janet Miles Live Journal:

Janet gives an overview of the Guests of Honor for this year's Wiscon, which include Jane Yolen and (sometimes magical realist) Kate Wilhelm. Definitely a worthwhile "con" to attend, if you can.

Together in Spirit:

Regarding Anne Patchett's Bel Canto—"I think Patchett didn't do [Garcia Marquez's magical realism in the same form—no people levitating or having second sight or whatever—but she certainly espoused what I would call an emotional version, whereby all sorts of traumatised and afflicted and trapped people suddenly find themselves wildly happy, fulfilled, loving and talented. Even singing scales, as has been noted, is delightful as a dawn chorus. This isn't normal, is it?"

Madrun's Live Journal:

RE: Harem by Dora Levy Mossanen—"I was expecting a book-length Orientalist fantasy painting, what I got was a complex emotional story about a line of women in medieval Persia. Mossanen's writing is fully immersed in Magical Realism, a genre I love (using the old definition), and reminded me strongly of Laura Esquivel. Don't expect historical accuracy though, the exact place/time is garbled, some details rang true while others seemed way anachronistic. The henna references made me twitch. I still loved the book, and look forward to reading her second novel, Courtesan."

Miss Johnson: Books I Recommend:

RE: The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl by Virginia Hamilton—"This book is a little bit difficult to get into at first but it is a good read. It combines African myth and folktale with an adventurous story of exploration. The main character travels from Africa to America. It talks about slavery and human condition but in a way that includes a lot of magical realism. I would suggest it for Grade 6/7 readers or an independent reading shelf in an intermediate classroom. My mom got it for me as an intermediate reader and I enjoyed it."

Mary's Library :

"I thought magical realism had run its course. Now comes Kafka on the Shore (2002, English translation 2005), by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel. This novel is another of the NY Times’ '10 Best Books of 2005.' … I didn’t get much beyond Chapter One. I’m not sure whether the critics would call this magical realism or fantasy or what. It’s hard to pigeon-hole a 'serious' or 'literary' novel in which 'cats and people carry on conversations, . . . a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky.' After applying the Pearl Formula (minus 30 pages) I would call it unreadable."

And You Will Know Me By The Trail of Books:

RE: Forever by Pete Hamill—"A good read but not a killer. 18th century Irishman lands in NY and saves an African shaman from a lynching. Shaman grants him eternal life so long as he doesn't leave the island of Manhattan. I think a lot of New Yorkers feel this way and if I had enough money, I would agree. Nice touches of magical realism. Features an interesting take on what a good guy Boss Tweed was."

Real Travel:

"One of the things that is unique to travel, especially foreign travel, is the ability for the traveler to suspend their disbelief. When you are on familiar ground, everything seems rational, or easily rationalizable. But, in an unknown city, where things pop up out of context, it is so easy to give into the belief that that thing is not to be understood by the mind. … And, if there were any city I've been where these sorts of inexplicable events might take place, it is Barcelona."

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11 February 2005
Topic: February 2005
In recognition of the fourth centenary of the first edition of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote de la Mancha) we announce our special theme for 2005:

Magical Realism from the Iberian Peninsula

Our goal at MARGIN is to explore modern magical realism. In this second in a series of special theme issues, we will address the diversity of voices from Europe's Iberian Peninsula, celebrating their particular manifestations of literary magical realism.

Margin's Iberian Peninsula exploration will be launched in May 2005. Deadline for submissions extended to Feb 28, 2005, postmarked.

Note: For our survey, we are defining the Iberian Peninsula as including Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Andorra and The Azores. Contributors need not currently live in the region, nor does the work necessarily need to be set there. However, if we decide to use your work we will ask for you to share with us your connection to the peninsula (through family ties, cultural upbringing, residency), and you must be willing and able to authenticate it. We are interested specifically in anything that serves to answer the question, "What is magical realism from the Iberian Peninsula?" See website for details.

WHAT WE NEED ESPECIALLY: Everyone loves "the Quixote," naturally, so we have a lot of work reflecting this timeless hero. However, more work independent of Cervantes' classic but tied to Spain, Portugal, the Azores, Gibraltar or Andorra is needed. We have plenty of books to review but would love more manuscripts of fiction, poetry, features and other nonfiction addressing our interest in this region. Any submissions accompanied by Spanish- or Portuguese-language translations are also favored. Remember, it must have a magical realist connection to have any chance of publication.

If you have any questions about this special theme, don't hesitate to ask!

Tamara Kaye Sellman, Publisher and Founding Editor

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Topic: February 2005
Margin's BRIAN EVENSON was recently interviewed by Geoffrey H. Goodwin for Bookslut.

ISABEL ALLENDE, UMBERTO ECO and LEMONY SNICKET will be magical realism's best representatives at this year's BEA (Book Expo America). The trade-only convention is scheduled for June 2-5 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

In case you missed it: Last December, the work of Cuban writer ALEJO CARPENTIER was declared "Cultural Heritage of the Nation" by the National Council of Cultural Heritage.

Fans of Don Quixote in New York City might want to catch this exhibit: IMAGES OF DON QUIXOTE: THE ART OF ILLUSTRATION AND PRINTMAKING, a presentation by the Hispanic Society of America, 613 West 155th Street, (212) 926-2234. The show runs through Feb. 20. The society's extensive permanent collection contains virtually every known illustrated edition of the Cervantes classic (17th to 20th century) and paintings by Cervantes's contemporaries (i.e. El Greco and Luis de Morales).

The Guardian reports on the release of the new comic book series, VIMANARAMA, which features an Asian Muslim teenager who discoveres a subterranean world beneath his family's business. DC Comics sums up the plot as "a modern-day Arabian Nights in the form of a Bollywood romantic comedy set on a celestial stage."

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10 February 2005
Topic: February 2005
Fans of Stuart Dybek can read a nice review of his work, and especially of his latest I Sailed With Magellan, in this arts feature published in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus. Reviewer Theresa Weaver writes: "Dybek, of Polish and Mexican heritage, occupies a secure place among some of the great writers who have come to define the Chicago tradition. Building on the realism that marks Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy and Nelson Algren's "The Man With the Golden Arm, Dybek injects a magic realism more reminiscent of Franz Kafka or Gabriel Garcia Marquez."

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Acclaimed Vietnamese author releases first novel
Topic: February 2005
Starborn Books of Wales now offers The Family Wound, written by St. Lawrence University Assistant Professor of English Ngoc Quang Huynh. Huynh, born in South Vietnam in 1957, attended Saigon University until he was thrown into a concentration camp for being a student. He overcame a year of torture and degradation while in prison, but eventually escaped and started a new life in the United States. The Family Wound recounts the horrors of war and the corruption and violence left in its wake through the perspective of a young Vietnamese woman, using touches of magical realism to tell the story.

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Mistress of Spices begins filming
Topic: February 2005
Dylan McDermott has been cast opposite Aishwarya Rai in the film adaptation of Chitra Divakaruni's popular novel The Mistress Of Spices. The movie will be shot extensively in northern California. Divakaruni's romance story involves an Oakland spice-shop owner who has the power to cure, at least until she falls in love.

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For Chicago-area fans of MR and theater:
Topic: February 2005
The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer
plays through March 6 at the Next Theatre at 927 Noyes in Evanston. Tickets: $20-$31. For more information, call: (847) 475-1875.

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Topic: February 2005
Recent Release
Rediscovering Magical Realism in the Americas by Shannin Schroeder

A must-have text for fans, instructors and students of magical realism who challenge the notion that the mode can only claim a South American domain.

from the Publisher:
"Drawing from a variety of contemporary literature?including such works as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Beloved, and Like Water for Chocolate?Schroeder explores magical realism as one of many common denominators in the literature of the Americas, challenging the notion that magical realism should be defined merely in terms of geography or Latin American history. By relying on an all-encompassing vision of this unique mode of writing, the author argues that the Americas share a literary tradition and validates the North American strain of the mode. In addition, she points to fundamentally similar approaches to fiction that illustrate the ways in which the Americas share a common literature and calls for increased Pan-American scholarship."

Look for a review of the book in an upcoming edition of Margin.

Posted by at 9:11 AM PST
Updated: 10 February 2005 9:09 AM PST
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7 February 2005
Topic: February 2005
Just a week remains to get your submissions in for the PERIPHERY flash fiction/prose poem contest! Theme for 2005: PERIPHERY 3 ~"Reasonable Facsimiles: Twins, Mirrors and Doppelgangers."

Postmark deadline: February 15, annually. Winner and honorable mentions published in Periphery, released August 1 annually.

Prize: $50, 3 copies of collectible print zine and publication. All manuscripts also considered for general publication in Margin ( Sim subs okay with notification, but entry fee nonrefundable. Previously published okay; please credit first publisher in cover letter. Entries not returned.

Entry fee: $7.50 covers up to 5 poems or short shorts (each 500 words or less); additional submissions, $2 each. Make checks payable to Tamara Kaye Sellman. Proceeds go to produce the August collector's edition of Periphery and to pay the prize. Judged blind by staff. See general guidelines at the website ( for complete details. Questions: (no electronic submissions, please)

Winner of the 2004 PERIPHERY contest, "The Living Landscape" ~ Marjorie Manwaring of Seattle, WA for her prose poem, "Sculptor."

Not sure what magical realism is, or aren't certain you can differentiate a prose poem from a flash fiction? Kill two birds with one stone! Buy the 2004 edition, PERIPHERY 2: THE LIVING LANDSCAPE for $5 and see what we're all about! Make checks payable to Tamara Kaye Sellman.

Send to:

c/o MARGIN: Exploring Modern Magical Realism
321 High School Road NE, PMB 204
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Since 2000, the world's only continuous
survey of literary magical realism

Member, CLMP, since 2001

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5 February 2005
Topic: February 2005
Second Thoughts columnist, Githa Hariharan, in Telegraph India's FROM READER TO READER, pays a nice tribute to literature's great ambassador, Alberto Manguel, who has played a key role in validating literary magical realism.

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4 February 2005
Topic: February 2005
American musician and composer Conor Oberst, of the popular independent band, Bright Eyes, talks about being really into "that magical realism stuff" in a recent interview with the Belfast Telegraph

In a recent Time magazine retrospective on reggae master Bob Marley, the Caribbean's infamous musician was described as "a musical magic realist" by senior editor Christopher Farley. Go to the article

from Mark Sanderson's "Literary Life" column at the Telegraph? "Twins, by their very nature, come in pairs. Now, it seems, so do novels about them. ? Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl, published this month by Bloomsbury, is a work of magical realism featuring mystical twins with a Nigerian mother. Diana Evans's 26A, to be published by Chatto & Windus in March, is a work of magical realism featuring mystical twins with a Nigerian mother."

Writers of flash fiction and prose poetry who have written work on the theme of twins, mirrors or doubles/doppelgangers might consider submitting to Periphery's current contest, following the theme of "Reasonable Facsimiles." Hurry, the deadline is Feb 15, 2005!

Dean Bakopoulos earned four stars from book columnist Marta Salij for the Detroit Free Press for his subtly magical realist novel, Please Don't Come Back From the Moon, recently released by Harcourt.

Other recent releases:
Kafka on the Shore ~ Haruki Murakami
The Shadow of the Wind ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafon (audiobook version, narrative by James Wilby)
Out on a Limb ~ Judith Budnitz
Tokyo Cancelled ~ Rana Dasgupta
The Last Song of Dusk ~ Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
Bab Al-Shams (The Gate of the Sun) ~ a film by Yousry Nasrallah

In the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, writer Philip Martin raves about Danny Boyle?s "delightful" Millions, a film slated for limited release in the US in March. Says Martin, "The March release date is a shame, for Millions is a funny bit of magical realism that just might be the best Christmas movie I?ve ever seen."

Some Sundance Film Festival selections to look for:
Thumbsucker by Mike Mills and Chumscrubber by Arie Posen

Recently reviewed in the St. Petersburg Times: Irina Denezhkina's "Vasya and the Green Men," a short story described as "a darkly humored, grim, and violent exercise in magical realism" from her new collection, Give Me.

Notable screenwriter and playwright Jose Rivera studied with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and was the co-creator of the short-lived, but memorable, '80s television series, Eerie, Indiana. His work on both the screen and stage pushes the limits of reality in ways that are uniquely American. His latest script effort, The Motorcycle Diaries, a film about Che Guevera, was recently nominated for an Oscar. Read more

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