Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Magic realism isn't fantasy.

I've often bemoaned that fantasy isn't taken seriously -- unless it is, and then they call it "magic realism."

That isn't really true, though.  One Hundred Years of Solitude isn't fantasy, even if it has scenes of magic.

There's a movie adaptation of Winter's Tale being released this weekend. The reviews are saying it's "ponderous" and "plodding."  The reviews also imply that the book was somehow different.

No -- the book was "ponderous" and "plodding" as well.  It's one of those rare mammoth books that I read halfway through and gave up on.  It reminded me of Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, which also bored the daylights out of me.  (I finished it, barely.)

I've talked to other people in my store that liked that book -- in fact, I seem to be the only one who doesn't.  But I want a payoff when I read a book.  I don't want something written so subtly that they bury all the pleasures of the genre.

I'm not opposed to magic realism, per se.  I absolutely loved One Hundred Years of Solitude.  But it never occurred to me at the time to think of it as fantasy.  I think the idea of magic in the time of Napoleon was such a cool idea, and the book was marketed as fantasy, so I bought Jonathan Strange... on that basis.  Same thing with Winter's Tale, which had -- if I remember rightly -- a Pegasus on the cover.

I will say that almost every time a book is marketed as a "literary" fantasy, I've not much cared for it.  I don't much care for Connie Willis for the same reasons -- a bunch of others. 

To me, they almost always have the weaknesses of bad "literary" but none of the strengths of good "fantasy."

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