I’m reading Alice Hoffman’s latest book, The Red Garden, in anticipation of our interview next month. Hoffman’s work often gets labeled as “magical realism.” That is, the stories take place unequivocally here on planet earth, but contain ghosts, eels that turn into women, and other mysterious oddities. You would think magical realism was an oxymoron, but it’s really not. Particularly in Hoffman’s hands, the scientifically unexplainable (like those ghosts or trees that bear fruit in winter) seem explained. Why? Because this magic feels like “real” life. Ghosts feel like the past insinuating itself into the present; the magical trees feel like belief in the midst of ruin.
Reality is as slippery as an eel. One moment you’ve wasted your life, the next the horizon of possibilities opens to you. What has changed but your own perception? I resisted any sort of magic in my own books for years. That was kids stuff. But as I’ve gotten older, life seems increasingly magical to me. The hardness and inflexibility of reality that I tried for so many years to manipulate and navigate seems less rock and more clay.
Wizards in fairytales create something out of nothing – fire or ice from their fingertips, dragons from the air, teleportation with the blink of an eye. This is closer to the truth than I ever would have guessed when I was a boy imagining such things. The eye of life changes the world as it turns upon it; a villain becomes a hero and a sinner a saint as the light of your ideas darken or brighten. In this way, the entire reality of our life resides within us. The only thing real is you, and you alone make the world challenging or impossible, beautiful or gaudy, tragic or ever changing.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.