m a g i c a l r e a l i s m s u r v e y
1. In your opinion, what does the cultural future look like for literary magical realism in the United States? Will it become more or less popular with mainstream readers? Why or why not?
M. ELIZA HAMILTON ABEGUNDE, Writer/Healing Facilitator, Chicago, IL
KELLI RUSSELL AGODON, Poet/Mother/Editor, Washington State/USAI think that it is already popular with mainstream readers -- only they don't realize it. I think this literature bridges a gap for people and is less intimidating because it encompasses so many hidden things that people don't talk about. And, the element of other realities, subrealities, etc. allows people to remove themselves from Life. For some people, it probably isn't even like reading Literature. And for others, it lets them dream a little about possibilities without straining their perception of what is intellectually challenging.FORREST AGUIRRE, inventory analyst and managing editor for Ministry of Whimsy press, Madison, WII think it looks positive and seems to be growing. People are living in such a goldfish bowl of bad news, negative images, that stepping into magical realism lets them out of reality and to explore new limits.
Will it become more or less popular with mainstream readers? Why or why not? Yes, it will. Why? Because mainstream readers are not sold on a certain model. They try everything. And with all the new TV bookclubs popping up, if someone suggests it, they will try it. Mainstream readers want good, interesting writing, if an MR writer is doing that, then I don't think someone would turn away if they learned it was MR. Look at the success of Harry Potter, I don't think I would have predicted its success with adults.
DOUG ANDERSON, Editor, KLANGMy own observation is that "literary magical realism" -- broadly defined -- is growing in popularity with mainstream readers. I think that while most readers might shy away from blatantly unreal fantasy and science fiction, many people will (and currently do) enjoy literary magical realism without even knowing that they are reading an LMR text.
JOE BENEVENTO, Professor of English, Truman State University and writer (fiction and poetry), Kirksville, MO("Cultural future" and "United States" just struck me as two magical realist phrases.) 18th & 19th century writers may have sat out the industrial revolution but many worked at realist or naturalistic prose portraits of people and the world around them. That is, they eliminated hipogriffs and maidens imprisoned in tree trunks. But then again you had Mary Shelly and her monster, Poe and his, Golgol's nose, Stevenson's potion, Well's fantasy's and Vernes' tales of gear and imagination. Hasn't some form of MR been with us since the beginning of literature?
MARY BER, educatorI'm uncertain about magical realism's future. I feel there are some imitators but not that many who are really capturing it. I don't think mainstream readers will object to it, but I think any kind of good writing should have its audience. I worry about using it glibly or to be trendy. It should have more value than that.
DARIO CIRIELLO, decorative painter, USThe students I teach literature to at Roosevelt University in Chicago love magical realism. I'm not seeing many contemporary non-Hispanic writers contributing to that genre, but my students really like it.
ELLEN DATLOW, fiction editor, USI'd say MR has a bright future. I think it's more accessible than SF for the 'mainstream reader; also the change in demographics may contribute to its wider acceptance, as MR more closely parallels the literary traditions of Hispanic and other cultures less steeped in rigid rationalism.
GLENDA GUEST, writer/academic, AustraliaIt already IS enormously popular and is a major part of US publishing.
JAY MISKOWIEC, publisher & professor of English, Mpls. Community and Technical College, Minneapolis, MNI'm not very familiar with the US literary field, but in the last ten years or so there seems to be a strong lean towards what John Barth calls 'irreal' fiction. I don't see any reason that this will alter.
Popularity always depends on the quality of writing, whatever the mode or genre (although I must admit there's some pretty appalling writing at the lower end of the pop market). But, probably more popular, as familiarity makes it easier to understand; and good MR is escapist in some ways, showing other ways of seeing.
DON MUCHOW, sales, Dallas, TXIt seems to me that the essence of magic realism has made its way into literature in general, here and abroad. I think it can only become more popular because of its captivating quality--people often read to escape mundane reality.
DORENE O'BRIEN, writing teacherI think it will continue to be popular for some, simply because a taste for it exists. I am not sure, however, that the style/technique/effect isn't lost on the masses.
JOHN PROHASKA, Winnipeg, Manitoba, CanadaExploring Eastern religious practices, "New Age" forms of reconnecting with spirit and even scientific theories that seem to confirm the presence of the mystical are trends I see continuing well into our cultural future as we search for meaning (and hope) in a world that seems to be growing darker and, in some ways, less fathomable. I believe this search will continue to be explored by writers through magical realism because the genre fosters such searches into the unknown.
SARAH WEBB QUEST, freelance writer, South Yarmouth, MAI expect no change. There still exists certain prejudices within North America that write MR off as simple genre. The belief remains that true literature must be 'realistic.' As such, the better offerings still come from less pragmatic cultures such as India and Latin America.
I'm certain magical realism will become more popular. The trend has been building and started to culminate. Evidence the Harry Potter books which are filled with it!
KEN RAND, "semi-fulltime writer;" dayjob: part-time library shelver, West Jordan, UT
People will continue to read whatever the technology. Paper books will continue to be a viable source of entertainment, but e-bookage will grow. Fantasy of all types will grow, become more important and accepted by 'mainstream' readers. Will it become more or less popular with mainstream readers? More popular. Why or why not? Technology makes magic realism in movies and other video (games) more viable, easier to do, more interesting -- more realistic. Matrix. Harry Potter. Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. All these help make magic realism more accessible to the general public.
JUSTINA ROBSON, writer, UKMARJORIE ROMMEL, Publicist/Media Relations Consultant, City of Auburn, Washington; Teacher, Pacific Lutheran University (Poetry), Pierce College (Fiction/Biography), Highline College (Creative Writing), Auburn, WAI don't know if the US varies from the UK widely in this matter. I don't know about the US scene very much but I suspect there is a larger gap than first appears. I think it will have to go beyond the 'early breakers' of García Márquez and Allende and change into a different animal in order to stay healthy, like any genre. ... Will it become more or less popular with mainstream readers? Impossible to say. That would depend on their appetite for the fantastic and the degree to which it was consciously employed within the books. To a degree it will be heavily hampered by retrograde religious dogma, I'm betting, and will be viewed with suspicion because of its attempt to break with absolute mimesis. On the other hand it will also be acquired as a means of evangelistic/didactic writing to some degree where its basic function of expressing either the supernatural or the abstract in concrete terms will be exploited and there its mileage will vary. I'm not confident that the wider US public is ready for magic realism beyond those first steps.
I believe literary magical realism already is becoming more popular with mainstream readers, in part because editors and publishers have shown themselves willing to allow it through the gates. Magical realism isn't new, but contemporary writers are using it to dress the old myths in diaphanous new clothing that allows readers to experience the moment of creative arrest, the viewpoint along the highway that allows us, suddenly, to see not just directly ahead and behind but all around ourselves, in directions we may not even have known existed.
I have a sneaking suspicion that's what the mystics have been trying to tell us all this time, that simply following the plot (that awful word) from Point A to Point B is taking the fast, easy, and very narrow road -- the freeway, you might say -- through the wide, rich, and various Land of Story.
We have described literature as a continuing conversation, but we have not been particularly willing to let others come in, or to consider, in its progress, points of view other than our own, the known, the comfortable. And yet the best part of learning, it seems to me, is being let into that conversation, being brought a folding chair and having others move over to make room for us, being invited to say what we think, to hear others say what they think -- and then talking about the differences, the similarities -- examining how our words and ideas connect to the work of others past and present, echoing, supporting, refuting, revising, expanding, sometimes even rocketing off in new directions entirely.
Surely it is our hope as writers to encourage ourselves, each other -- and our readers! -- to take part in this ongoing conversation. Magical realism is the invitation: the extra plate, the empty chair, the door cracked open.
GARRETT ROWLAN, substitute teacher, US
I think magical realism or something analogous to it will become more popular in the United States. After all, we live in a time where reality is largely a matter of perception. The fictional war that Michael Moore spoke about at the Oscars has as its hero Jessica Lynch, who as it turned out only appeared to do the heroic things she did. And kids these days, as a schoolteacher friend assures me, have been exposed to so much blue screen and computer generated deception in the movies and TV that they don't believe anything is real anymore, even history. It's all fake. The atmosphere is perfect for magic realism.
ANDY SAWYER, librarian and lecturer, Liverpool, England
I can't speak for the USA because I'm not a native. In the UK, and from what I see in the US as an outsider, there's certainly an upsurge of what CONJUNCTIONS magazine calls The New Wave Fabulists and what some practitioners of the art call The New Weird. Some of this is related to magical realism, some isn't.
TAMARA KAYE SELLMAN, editor and publisher/MARGINBARBARA STEINHAUSER, writer, Parker, COI think its future is already here, it's just a matter of linking the audience to the form. American multiculturalism is fast making this linkage possible. And since it's now acceptable to be diverse or multicultural, so it goes that magical realism will (continue to) be an acceptable narrative strategy.
I believe it will become more popular as individuals explore their own cultural heritages in order to shape their own individual world views.
ISAAC SWEENEY, full-time journalist, full-time grad student (English, creative writing concentration), Harrisburg, VA
Magical realism always has been, and always will be a literary form that is a little too unusual for many mainstream readers. Mainstream readers do not have the patience to give magic realism texts the attention they deserve. They won't examine why the old man has enormous wings, or why Erendira's grandmother is so hateful.
Magic realism does seem to poke its head into mainstream in children's literature (see Shel Silverstein). Maybe the imaginations of most adult readers are not as complex as magic realists? Maybe magic realism is a way of preserving childhood, while presenting adult themes?
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