Learning how magical realism works

Into each life, some sprinkles of magic faery dust sometimes fall. It’s all part of our story-telling sensibility, I reckon, these magical moments of understanding. I think, as resonant as metaphor, as compelling as an epiphany, these moments are also a big part of what makes us human.

I’ve used magical realism with conscious effort in a couple of my recent creative writing assignments. Borrowing from the tropes of folk songs, I’ve winkled out extraordinary from an ordinary day. Extrapolating from a given image, a rather frightening picture of abandonment, I’ve made up a hidden moment of passion, injecting a moment of magic into an otherwise humdrum memoir. These moments have provided sparkles of joy. I guess the last complete book I’ve read was The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. The sustained magical realism helped, in a really wonderful way, to illuminate the lives of the other characters in this delightful novel. In a not dissimilar way, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead does its own service to the cause of enlightenment.

I don’t go in for the supernatural, not at all, but the magical, that kind of joy I can appreciate. Perhaps it all depends on what we mean by magic. If the story is magical, if our disbelief is suspended for the experience of the story, so that we can dwell in a magical universe for a moment, where another part of life is revealed, then it all somehow makes profound sense.

In a more prosaic way, yesterday we played a small part in the weekly community lunch here in New Galloway. The service, you might say, was the infrastructure of the developing story. But the magical part was the return of a buzzing corpus of folks, after the years of isolation and lockdown, to enjoy the company of others. When the scene was captured on the coordinator’s phone, I thought, this has been a little bit of human magic, this has.

A new story, for the telling. And we left, trailing a few sprinkles of dust on the pavement behind us that the magic faery had graced us with.

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