A Thought about a previously unmentioned element of Magical Realism (maybe)

This occurred to me a few days ago.

I was pondering the kinds of of stories that I think of as Magical Realism, and I noticed something I think is worth bringing up. I’m not sure it’s a hard-and-fast rule, but then again the whole MR sub-genre is more than a bit hazy.

It seems to me that these sorts of stories are, at some level, “self-aware” of themselves as stories.

By that, I mean to say that there seems to be a common stylistic element in these sorts of stories – the style of a story being told to an audience.

I’m not sure if I can put it more concretely than that – I haven’t personally encountered a literary term that describes what I’m talking about – but there seems (to me) to be a readily-detected tone in these stories of “This is a story I am about to tell you.”

Or perhaps “Once upon a time…”

In some cases, it’s subtle, as with At the Mouth of the River of Bees. In other cases, as with (for instance) Big Fish, the storyteller is front and center and you’re made aware of that structure and style.

And yes, every story is a story told to an audience, strictly speaking – what I’m talking about is the sense that these particular stories are framed (either subtly or obviously) as a Told Thing: a shared object… and (just as important) at some level, they seems to know it.

I think, perhaps, it hearkens back to MR’s pre-war antecedents: fairy tales. Their origins  (even if you’re talking only about the south/central american origins) grow, more directly than most, from spoken tales.

Am I making any kind of sense, or it this just early-morning ramble?

2 Replies to “A Thought about a previously unmentioned element of Magical Realism (maybe)”

  1. If this is correct, then it would predict a greater indicence of 3rd-person omniscient POVS–i.e., narrators.

    1. Maybe. Could be that that’s actually happening. That certainly seems to be a common element. Close-third person isn’t very common, at least in the short fiction.

      I think another/additional way it sometimes manifests is as a kind of meta-fiction element – stories in which the protagonist and/or other characters are aware that they’re part of a story; they are conscious of themselves as fictional constructs…

      Maybe. Again, maybe.

      When people say “Magical Realism is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous,” what I’m starting to see is “Magical realism is a squishy bog.”

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