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.
There’s a low, paint-chipped door in the corner of Alexei Mashkov’s living
room in Providence.
His agent tells him that the door used to connect to the apartment next to his,
a long time ago, when the structure had been one. The door leads to nowhere
now, only a wall of bricks. Alexei has even seen the wall of bricks in person,
when he requested the landlord open the door for fun. He’s always been curious,
after all, and the old, rusted key that the agent picks out from the cabinets
only added to that curiosity.
“You’ll get yourself into trouble one day, Lyosha,” his grandmother used to
tell him. Alexei had been young, perhaps seven or eight, when she warned him.
“Don’t ask so many questions, and try to be happy, or the spirits will see, and take you.” She
had said, “Don’t go through strange doors, and don’t follow voices, especially
if they sing to you.”
“What’s so bad about singing?” Alexei had demanded, in a petulant way only a
seven-year-old can manage. “I sing.”
“Yes, love, but they sing to
confuse you,” his grandmother had responded. “They sing of a life better than
the one you have, so you want to come to them. You see? They want to trick you
and steal you away.”
Of course, Alexei had thought her warning had been metaphorical, if not
slightly cryptic. She’d been old then, and easily confused. If you take out the
spirits part, the rest sound more or less logical. He figured that she doesn’t
want him talking to strangers and end up kidnapped, so Alexei had merely nodded
and promised her. No going in strange doors, no following the singing voice, not that there’d been any in his life. Until now.
The bricks are nothing special: the seams filled with cement, the corners dusty
with cobwebs. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but there’s a draft that only
Alexei can feel because when he mentions it to the agent, she only blinks in
“Why not lock it?” Alexei asks, when the agent pockets the old key and closes
the old, wooden door.
“Why should I?” the agent says, smiling. “The wall is bricked up. Not like
there’s anything that can come out. Now, let’s go to the kitchen. The structure
itself is a little old, almost 150 years, but it’s been recently remodeled.
It’s got a beautiful granite counter top—”
Alexei loves the house. But doesn’t know why he feels uneasy about the door. When he gets the keys to the house, he finds the rusted key again and locks the door.
The first time it happens, Derek is seven years old and having a nightmare.
He’s dreaming of the counselor his parents had made him see after the divorce, the mean one, the one who had pushed and pushed and pushed him to talk even after he’d started to cry and said he didn’t want to. He’s pushing in the dream, too, and finally, Derek, in his dream, thinks, with all of his might, I want my mom.
And then he’s not in his dream anymore. He’s somewhere else.
Appropriating Latinx Magical Realism: A Twitter Thread
Mel from Books on Wings began this discussion by tweeting: “Apart from all the mess that is MS’ new book, I’ve always been hesitant about non-latinx people writing magical realism. It’s prominently a Latin American genre and she took inspiration from Isabel Allende and García Márquez. But why would we need her voice and story?”
I studied magical realism and the fantastic in college, and wrote my senior thesis on it, so I decided to jump in, because this has often bothered me as well. So here it is: You can write magical realism without appropriating Latin-American stories or Latinx magical realism. It’s easy. Here’s why.
Magical Realism as a genre was founded by Gabriel García Márquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude and The House of the Spirits are two examples of the genre. This genre is largely a reaction against colonialism and Western realism. The idea is that mythology and spirituality are not as separate from the ‘real world’ in non-Western storytelling traditions. Here’s a way of explaining this: when I was a kid, my parents and grandparents told me a lot of stories about our history that are exaggerated, added-to, mythologized a little bit, etc. If I told a family history, I would tell those stories instead of finding the real ones, because these stories actually explain my family better. It’s an argument that it’s actually sort of more real if you include those tales rather than the ‘historically correct ones.’ You can pull inspiration from this genre successfully without appropriating it. For example, Jeffrey Eugenides in Middlesex uses the same sort of family/historical epic framework, dotted with magical realism, to tell his story.
Magical realism is used in the literature of many cultures, from Balkan to Japanese to African-American novels and stories. It’s often used to project an anti-Western outlook, but with postmodernism, many Western writers began to utilize it as well. But outside of Latin America, magical realism is a mode, not a genre. It is a literary tool to enhance your story and give it depth, or mystery. It’s used, just for example, by The Master and Margarita, Ulysses, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Lincoln in the Bardo, the short stories of Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter. Would you put those all into the same genre? No, me neither. That’s because these all use magical realism but don’t try to appropriate the genre of magical realism, which is a Latin American genre. They use it as a mode to create a certain feeling, experience, and depth for the reader, but are not directly using the styles of Marquez.
That’s my problem with Maggie Stiefvater’s new novel. There isno reason why you need to appropriate Latinx stories or tropes from the genre of magical realism in order to write a novel that has magical realism in it. As Mel added, non-Latinx people can use it as a mode—but there’s no reason to take Latinx stories away. I agree. Do you want to write a novel with magical realism in it? Great—so do I, in fact. But why do you need to write a Latin American story to do so? The answer is that you really don’t.
The trouble with the term “magic realism,” el realismo mágico, is that when people say or hear it they are really hearing or saying only half of it, “magic,” without paying attention to the other half, “realism.” But if magic realism were just magic, it wouldn’t matter. It would be mere whimsy — writing in which, because anything can happen, nothing has effect. It’s because the magic in magic realism has deep roots in the real, because it grows out of the real and illuminates it in beautiful and unexpected ways, that it works.
Tall, dark and menacing – Derek – doesn’t do anything except for inch a little closer to Stiles. Stiles stares at his supposed soulmate at the movement.
Stiles must have saved a building of orphans and kittens and puppies in another life to get that as his soulmate. There’s muscle. More muscle than Stiles had been aware was capable and the guys on the lacrosse team were not shy about stripping down to only their shorts if Coach let them get away with it. Stiles has a healthy amount of muscle himself. Like, he’s reasonable toned. Not like Derek at all who was probably confused as a Celtic warrior from the past.
Stiles really, really wanted to touch Derek and unless Stiles was blind and dumb, Derek really, really wanted to touch Stiles too.
The two characters were aware that they were ideas trapped inside their author’s head. They regularly changed age and gender and history, this did not stop them from enjoying each other’s company. They would spend entire weeks sitting together in their still swirling world, watching landscapes form, at first like black and white ink scratches, and then into fully colored works that seemed stolen from Vermeer — or Van Gogh — or Frazetta, it depended on whom their author had been studying lately. The constant company bred familiarity, and familiarity blossomed into love. They worried about the day when they were finally committed to paper.
“What if I’m the hero and you’re the villain?” asked the older of the two.
“Then I expect you shall try and redeem me, or I’ll perhaps fall to your side,” said the younger, bolder in the latest iteration.
“And if we’re doomed to kill each other?”
“Then I shall keep our creator’s hand from the page until her ideas match our own.”
“Wonderful, simply wonderful.”