There is a moment where night becomes day. An exact moment when the sky fractures. A nanosecond where the line between light and darkness is distinguishable from each other.
There is a moment when, rushing along the highway, green horizons give way to vibrant desert-scape, only to change back again. Crossing that unseen line, a gentle jolt can be felt, as you move into a new vegetation zone.
These are not special moments. Such transitions happen everyday. Over and over, all day long. There is no magic involved. The real magic is accepting that such moments exist. Only then will you see the line.
Or so the old lady told me.
I suppose we were looking for lines, the old lady and me. Nanosecond fractures in time. I thought I was learning about literature, exploring genres, revisiting favourite authors and dissecting loved books with a writer’s mind. She told me I thought too much. That I would learn more about writing by getting out into nature, not reading. Instead, I needed to find how to walk the world two-ways. Being able to see transitions would help me be a better writer.
The old lady liked riddles.
I wanted to understand magic realism from a writer’s point of view. It seems that more and more authors are now labelling their work as magic realism. Is it, though? More often than not, I would say no. I could name many other labels that would be more suitable – easily picked from the every growing branches and twigs of genres. Though ask me to describe what magic realism is, and I’m more comfortable with telling you what it isn’t.
To navigate through the ever-changing world of literature, I needed a guide. That old lady seemed as good as any. Or so she told me.
So off we ventured. Not into more books, or searching the net. We really did venture. Out on the open road. I drove. There is something about being on the road. Worries are quickly left behind. The road ahead is unknown. The first transition was that blissful moment of freedom. It was then that the birds appeared. Like attracts like.
Somewhere along the road, I began to think about writing. Specifically, the manuscript that I had not touched for a very long time. What I was calling my ‘next book.’ It is not unusual for me to think about my works-in-progress whilst driving. I spend over two hours every day on the road, driving to and from the day job. Often I will use that time to ‘work’ on my book – fix plot problems, come up with new characters, write the most perfect sentences (all of which I forget by the time I find a pen).
This time I had eleven days of driving. Plenty of time for thinking. Eventually, my thoughts got around to genre. Or labels. Being able to comfortably categorise your writing has become such a big deal. Without labels, marketing books becomes even harder, especially for indie authors. As if it’s not hard enough!
As a reader, I really enjoy magic realism. Not the newer works, which I believe rarely fit this genre, but works by the likes of Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Ben Okri and Laura Esquivel.
Perhaps I have been spoilt. Perhaps I am being inflexible (again). Regardless, I can’t shake off the view that many works labelled as magic realism appear to be something else. Am I the only one who can see the emperor’s new clothes? What’s wrong with proudly accepting a novel for what it is? Why try to cram it into a label that just doesn’t fit?
Then again, does it matter? Its been over a year since I posted my views on magic realism, and its distinct differences from genres such as fantasy. Instead, I argued for recognition of magic realism literature as a politically charged voice for the oppressed. Since then I’ve shaken my head on numerous occasions, as I watched what appeared to be increasing appropriation of that voice, whilst wanting to let go of my own rigid definition of magic realism.
Out on the road, I knew it didn’t really matter what others said or did. What mattered was finding my own voice. And most of all, putting to paper all the books that I had written in my head. Enough with the distractions.
With my first book, I flirted with magic realism. And I too hinted at that label when marketing. Yes, I’m a hypocrite. However, its okay to experiment, and to genre hop. Writers do it all the time. Even the man often called the father of magic realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (may he rest in peace), did not confine himself to writing in only one genre. So my first book was a chance for me to play genre-fusion, to find my own voice.
This next book, this one I will feel comfortable with calling magic realism. And this is where I’ve hit a wall. Why it sits, unfinished. I’m quick with stating ‘that’s not magic realism’, but until I know what magic realism is, I can’t finish writing this book.
How do I find the right way to write magic realism. It can’t be taught. It needs to be felt. The old lady was right. I had to remember how to walk two-ways. Not learn to do it, but remember and do it. How I do that is not today’s story. That old lady was right, though. The answer was out in nature, not in the comfort of my home.
So that was the next moment. I crossed another line. It felt great. I also meant a massive re-write. It meant ravaging 70,000+ words. Chopping and changing to fit my new vision. It meant getting home, and sitting down at a computer, ready to do the hard work. It means trying to keep alive what I rediscovered on the road, as I walked the earth barefoot, and not be dragged back into the world of concrete.
The next steps are taken alone, without the company of the old woman. She is far away, left out on the road that leads from the sea to the desert. In my mind I can see her flying high, covering vast distances over changing landscapes. She has shown me how to fly, to feel free. Now it’s time to write. This time I will hold the night and day closer together, as I pick apart and re-stitch my novel-in-waiting.
MAGIC REALISM BLOGHOP 2014
This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Over twenty writers/bloggers are taking part over three days (6th – 8th August 2014).
Click on the link below to read more of these Magic Realism post. More posts will be added to the list over the next three days.