Thursday, June 24, 2010

Whose everyday life is being illuminated?

I am currently reading Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I'm about halfway through, and I'm enjoying it so far. That, however, is not the point of this post.

The novel is about Rose Edelstein, a girl who, the day before she turns nine, develops the talent  (receives the curse?) of being able to taste emotions in food. The flap copy assures me that Bender's prose "illuminates the strangeness of everyday life."


I'm all for strange, but whose everyday life includes anything like this? I feel pretty certain this is a speculative fiction novel, but perhaps my everyday life just isn't strange enough.

This reminds of a definition I was once given of magical realism. I was told, "well, it's like fantasy, but it's usually written by Catholics, or people from Catholic countries, so they actually expect that sort of thing to happen, because it does all the time in their religion."

You know, I've been Catholic my whole life, but if some girl resurrects at her funeral, and follows that trick with levitating out of her coffin, a la Christina Mirabilis, I am going to think words that I don't normally say in church, not, "Oh yes, this sort of thing happens all the time. Carry on." 

It's called a miracle because it causes wonder, because it is strange, and very far from everyday. 


  1. I think modern magical realism has spread far beyond Catholics now - some might lump Neil Gaiman in as magical realism, for example. I like to think of it as the place where odd things happen round the corner.

  2. Laura - I think it has, too (and honestly, I'm suspicious of any definition that says "well, these sorts of people do it"). The thing for me with magical realism is that I'm always asking for definitions because it feels like an "I know it when I see it" sort of genre. I do like your "the place where odd things happen round the corner," though. Maybe I'll use that one for a while.