Genre Friday – Magical Realism

Robert Gonsalves, On the High Seas

Magical Realism is a very interesting genre. In the broadest, and most obvious terms, it deals with stories that incorporate magic into realistic settings. That could be viewed as an oversimplification though, since the same thing could be said for Urban Fantasy, which is a very different animal indeed. So, while magical realism could arguably be given a place at the speculative fiction table (and maybe even the little table near the kitchen that is reserved for Fantasy genres and subgenres), it typically isn’t. And for good reason. Often viewed as literary fiction, rather than the often less respected genre fiction (haters gonna hate) it could be compared to, it has a style and feeling all its own.

This may have something to due with its attributed origins as a primarily Latin American product.  Jorge Luis Borges, Elena Garro, Juan Rulfo, Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, among others, are seen as founders and pioneers of the genre. It has spread out from there, with authors of other places and cultures taking to the surreal world of magical realism, but no matter where they are from the genre always has certain elements in common to one extent or another.

Magical realism incorporates magic into the everyday, mundane world in a way that almost suggests it is commonplace; or, if not commonplace, than at least not terribly alarming to the protagonist. Its mystic elements, usually (or at least traditionally) rooted in folklore or mythology, are often subtle or underplayed and may go completely unremarked upon in the story. The subtle blending of the detailed, real-world setting with the fantastical, and the characters’ often almost casual acceptance of it (‘Huh, cats don’t usually talk, but it would be rude not to say hello‘ or ‘That is a little odd, the ghosts of my long dead ancestors don’t usually appear in my breakfast nook, I should ask them if I can get them anything‘) create a surreal, dream-like feeling in many of these works. In many situations, the calm, dream-like feeling is strengthened even further by the narrators indifference. They are frequently equally as unaffected by the “real” elements of their world as they are the fantastic, never seeking an explanation for their circumstances or the things they have witnessed. Meanwhile, the reader, confronted by a constant barrage of strange and impossible events in this realistic setting, experiences an ever-building sense of mystery, and occasionally foreboding, as the characters and the story calmly approach the point of climax.

If you enjoy waking from those particularly weird and vivid dreams that leave you with a distinct sense of confused wonder, or if wish you had dreams like that, then this is the genre for you.



Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Author Birthdays – Forward, March!

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (b. March 6, 1927, Aracataca, Colombia; d. April 17, 2014, Mexico City, Mexico)

Marquez“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude

For more information on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, click here.


Bret Easton Ellis (b. March 7, 1964, Los Angeles, CA)

Ellis“I’d rather let the fiction speak for itself and I don’t want to write fiction that tells people how to feel, and I don’t want to be judgmental in the fiction.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: American Psycho

For more information on Bret Easton Ellis, click here.


Douglas Adams (b. March 11, 1952, Cambridge, UK; d. May 11, 2001, Montecito, CA)

Adams“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

For more information on Douglas Adams, click here.


Jack Kerouac (b. March 12, 1922, Lowell, MA; d. October 21, 1969, St. Petersburg, FL)

Kerouac“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: On the Road

For more information on Jack Kerouac, click here.



L. Ron Hubbard (b. March 13, 1911, Tilden, NE; d. January 24, 1986, Creston, CA)

Hubbard“I have seen life from the top down and the bottom up. I know how it looks both ways. And I know there is wisdom and that there is hope.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: Battlefield Earth

For more information on L. Ron Hubbard, click here.


Richard Condon (b. March 18, 1915, New York, NY; d. April 9, 1996, Dallas, TX)

Condon“I think the most important part of storytelling is tension. It’s the constant tension of suspense that in a sense mirrors life, because nobody knows what’s going to happen three hours from now.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: The Manchurian Candidate

For more information on Richard Condon, click here.


John Updike (b. March 18, 1932, Reading, PA; d. January 27, 2009, Danvers, MA)

Updike“Most of American life consists of driving somewhere and then returning home, wondering why the hell you went.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: Rabbit, Run

For more information on John Updike, click here.