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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Socially Conscious Magical Realism

 Where do you draw the line between a fantasy novel and the type of literary fiction that is called magical realism? There have been times in the past when I've considered magical realism nothing but a marketing category for writers whose literary snobbery didn't allow them to admit that they were writing in the fantasy genre, and readers that didn't want to admit that they read any fantasy.  Yet I've eventually come to the conclusion that there is a legitimate difference between magical realism and fantasy. 

This is how I currently understand magical realism.  Magical realism is a literary movement that began in the 20th century. In magical realist fiction a supernatural element is introduced into a real world setting.  Such a novel isn't teeming with supernatural creatures as you might find in an urban fantasy novel where vampires, werwolves, demons and zombies may all contend with one another within a single story line.  No, there is only a single manifestation of strangeness. In everything else, the magical realist novel is portraying existence as we know it.

This discussion of magical realism now seems to apply to the novel I've just reviewed for The Bookplex.


The fantasy element in Brant’s Tales Volume 1:Karme  is so small a part of the content that many readers would call this book magical realist.  It does feel like other books I’ve read which have been given that label. 

Although the 1950’s is my least favorite decade, the character of Karme  sounded like an intriguing mystery.  I think that she’s a lightning rod for all the fear of difference during this period.  Other characters in the novel are surprisingly unconventional in their outlook or even their behavior, but Karme is  so obviously outside of  all society’s norms.  It’s easy to scapegoat her.   She considers herself non-human.  It seemed to me that she’s a human being raised in isolation with paranormal abilities of unknown origin.

The social dynamics and intolerance reminded me of another book I reviewed that also took place in a small Florida town.  The events of Fire Angels by Joseph Richardson happened forty years previous to Karme.  Comparing these two novels shows that the attitudes of the majority toward minorities hadn’t really changed in the intervening years. 

The notes in which an older Brant gives us his perspective seem quirky, but appealing to me.  They helped to sustain my interest in the futures of Brant, Karme and others.  I am looking forward to the sequel.


Unknown Civil Rights Figure

Like most people, I'd always thought that Rosa Parks was the African American who first dared to challenge segregation on buses.  I learned from Karme that she had a predecessor.  Irene Morgan was an earlier African American woman who was arrested for sitting in the front of the bus 11 years before Rosa Parks.  Not only this, but her case went before the U.S. Supreme Court which decided in 1946 that segregation on buses was unconstitutional.  See the Irene Morgan Article on Wikipedia.


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