A Tale of Magical Realism
I wrote this story to try to come to grips with the
fascinating genre of magical realism. In order to more fully enjoy this tall tale,
I suggest that we explore briefly together both what magical realism
contains, and what it does not.
Events or happenstances that most people believe could occur
according to the laws of physics or according to socially accepted norms of
behavior are often defined as natural or "real." In apposition, anything
that occurs in the realm of the supernatural, whether springing from Heaven
or Hell, or even on Earth, may be referred to by a majority of people as
"Magical Realism" may therefore be defined as a story in which
any event or happenstance occurs as a result of these two "realms"--the real
and the magical-intermingling and affecting each other.
For example, an oral or written story that takes place solely
in a supernatural location such as Heaven, perhaps only involving
angels,cherubim, seraphim, and God, without reference to people or
common objects,is magical-as well as religious--but not real. Oppositely, a
tale set in the natural realm of people and common objects, without
reference to gods or demons, is real, but not magical. However, if the protagonist
in a story appeals to a Heavenly or other supernatural realm in order to
affect some event on Earth, such as a protagonist's prayer for his mother
to recover from a life-threatening illness, then this story can be
defined as being within the genre of magical realism.
The line between realism and magic, however, is often blurred
because typical occurrences on Earth, while known by a vast majority
of people as being real, are nevertheless also frequently viewed as
"miraculous" and "magical" by this same vast majority. A child's first smile,
first step, and first word are often viewed in this magical way.
Similarly, a full-arching rainbow is often seen like this.
Additionally, even when people believe that God is no longer
an important influence during the Christmas season, they still often view
people's good deeds in the name of Christmas and God as being miraculous.
Feeding the hungry and homeless and giving clothes to the poor may be
viewed as belonging to this miraculous category.
In sum, stories in which the realms of the real and the
supernatural impact each other, and stories in which readers believe that the
unfolding and resolution of events are in some way miraculous, are defined,
in my opinion, as magical realism.
Looked at as a continuum, magically real stories can range
from the most fantastical and bizarre to the most pedantic and mundane; from
the most supernatural to the most natural; from the most sacred to the
most profane;from the most metaphysical to the most physical; from the most
magical to the most real. In the language of the physical world-the
realm of science and technology--the genre of magical realism can range in
stories from the least to the most probable; that is, from the least to the
most believable."The Red Sox and the Devil's Handmaiden," while referring
often to everyday--even earthy-events, falls on the far end of the
supernatural scale. I mean, how probable is it for God and the Devil to appear
before the same person? Frankly, I think not very likely, but please feel
free to differ. Still, this and many other such fictions are written to show
that magical elements can be manifested in even the most realistic of
stories. By extension, I hope the readers' own lives are enriched, as mine
has been from penning this tale.
Of course, you and I will disagree as to what extent the
probability is of a specific event occurring in any story. Yet, I believe that
what is most probable in all magical realism tales is that they juxtapose
our normal world against a backdrop of unreality, and thereby throw
reality into sharper relief. Such stories, if nothing else, help us to see
greater beauty and other wondrous characteristics that we otherwise
might overlook and take for granted. The coastal hills of California?
Beautiful. These same hills set against the Pacific Ocean? Otherworldly.
Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Miraculous. Magical.
Magical realism, even for those who categorically deny the
existence of the supernatural, can extend all our senses, illuminate added
emotional and intellectual dimensions, and help us appreciate our most
realistic of worlds. The writing of the "Red Sox" story has been a magical
odyssey for me. I hope it provides the same for you.
© Andy Plotkin 2005
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