Having grown up in DC, statues of various dead guys on horses are basically background radiation, or they were before I became Hamilton trash and started noticing them again. Now it’s like every time I turn around there’s a Founding Father looking at me like I personally disappointed him, and it’s getting a little unnerving.
Although: as a result, I sort of want to write a magical realism thing where that can really happen. Where if you do something they would have disagreed with strongly enough, the statues climb down off their columns and lumber down Mass Ave to the Russell Building or the Capitol, where they stand on the sidewalk, arms crossed, glaring into the window of whoever’s just introduced legislation that offended them. They don’t speak, or attack anyone, or damage anything– well, they do tend to bump their heads on low-handing streetlights, sometimes, but that doesn’t count. Mostly they just stand there, mournful, accusing, for everyone to see.
Sometimes lawmakers can talk them around, convince them they’re not actually betraying the political ideals of their predecessors. Politicians who are good at this tend to have much, much longer careers than the ones who aren’t. Politicians who piss off the wrong statues seldom get reelected.
George Washington rarely budges, and when he does it’s front-page news, nationwide. Madison’s always been easier to talk around than most. Hamilton spend more time off his plinth than on it, but he cools off fast. Jefferson holds grudges, to the point that hardly anyone worries too much about making him mad.
It’s not just politicians, either, and they don’t always come to life in anger. Joan of Arc’s bronze horse will shiver to life in Malcolm X Park, sometimes, and carry her off to join protest marches, when she thinks their cause is just. Gandhi walked with Iraq War protestors. The Spirit of American Womanhood, outside Constitution Hall, danced on the day that Roe v. Wade was decided, and when Obergefell vs. Hodge went through, Eleanor Roosevelt taught a clumsy Lindy to Baron von Steuben.
Lincoln has only risen from his seat once since he was put there in 1922, and that was to nod in solemn approval at LBJ from the White House lawn.
Some cities rarely put up statues, and many have taken theirs down. Paris has a great many artists and writers memorialized, and curiously few politicians. In London, during the Blitz, Nelson shinned down his column to help dig people out of collapsed buildings, until he was broken to pieces himself; he stands atop the column again today, reassembled, but has never moved since. In the last months of the Soviet Union, a desperate Communist Party had the statues of Moscow chained in place. These days, Monument Avenue in Richmond is punctuated with a long series of empty plinths and bare columns.
Turn on the TV or open a book these days and you’ll be convinced that there is magic woven into our daily lives. TV shows and books with fairy tale, supernatural, or odd elements are as omnipresent as ever.
Why so much magic?
There’s a feeling these works tap into: that the world and our lives are unsettled. We inhabit a time and place that is odd, sometimes crazy, a place where things don’t always make sense or add up. This can be beautiful and strange, but also dark.
Magic says what we can’t.
Magic can give us a method to talk about tragedy and injustice when we might not be able to find the words otherwise.
In an article by The Atlantic Monthly, “The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction,” Jeff VanderMeer says:
“It is cathartic to seek out and tell stories that do not seek to reconcile the illogical, the contradictory, and often instinctual way in which human beings perceive the world, but instead accentuate these elements as a way of showing us as we truly are. Unruly. Unruled. Superstitious. Absurd. Subject to a thousand destabilizing fears and hopes.”
So whether you want to write a story with magic or an odd element because it seems fun, or because you’re looking for a way to tell a story about a social issue that is close to your heart … here are some tips for making your writing successful.
The Basics: What is Magical Realism?
Magical realism is literature that treats supernatural, extraordinary events as commonplace.
It transforms the common and everyday into the awesome and the unreal.
It treats the unreal as part of reality.
The reader has to accept the fait accompli [(def) a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept)].
The rest of the story follows with logical precision. It explores the ripples of the weirdness.
Magical realism takes the supernatural for granted and spends its space exploring the human reaction to the event/thing/magic/weird.
How do you get a reader to accept the fait accompli?
Tell it straight and with authority. Treat it like it’s no big thing. AND…
Set it up quickly. Example: “There were two mutant girls in town. One had a hand made of fire. One had a hand made of ice. Everyone else’s hands were normal. The girls met in elementary school.” – Aimee Bender, “The Healer” from Girl in the Flammable Skirt.
Provide details of the normal everyday world so we believe in it (Ex. Make your characters eats spaghetti.)
Make emotional reactions ring true.
Give us a pretty normal narrator we’ll follow and listen to. Sometimes this narrator will tell stories within the story. This is a nod to faery tales or fables or oral tradition. This also tells the reader how to read the story. “Aha, this is a modern fairy tale!” the reader says. Sometimes when the narrator says, “You won’t believe me” or “I know this sounds crazy” it makes them sound NOT crazy (a crazy person wouldn’t be concerned). Also if the narrator says it then the reader doesn’t have to and s/he can keep reading.
Use magic sparingly. Only one element of weirdness! (Nobody likes a story where the magic fixes every problem a character has or when the magic is so complex that it doesn’t make sense.)
Leave it unexplained.
Make the magic mean something. The magic is a theme that is used to tell a story that happens all the time in the real world (something unjust or tragic).
Sarah Curry is a MFA Fiction student at VCU and has a M.A. in anthropology from George Mason University. She has worked for several years for non-profits and campaigns as a writer, researcher, and advocate. And yes, she will read your vampire story.
Jaroslaw Jasnikowski was born in Legnica,Poland in 1976. He took up painting in 1991. His first artistic steps were taken under the direction of Mirosława Lickiewicz, an artist and teacher from Legnica. At that time, science-fiction art was the artist’s main inspiration.
In the mid-90’s, Jasnikowski discovered works of Salvador Dalí and other surrealists. In 1998, on advice of Wojciech Siudmak, he decided to devote his work to fantastic realism which according to the artist is the most fascinating and the least restrictive form of expression. Currently, Jarosław Jasnikowski is one of the leading artists of this genre in Poland and his paintings have become parts of art collections all around the world. via
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