Saturday, April 3, 2010

Relatability and contrast and comparison. All works thus far.

Starting with McOndo. As the editors of the book indicate, Westerners for the most part are consumers of mass-created products and ideas of lo latinoamericano. And those products and ideas seemed to stop advancing by the end of the 1960s, or thereabouts. Magic realism is a dominant force, to the point of being stereotypical, clichE, avant-garde no longer; there's nothing subtle about it anymore, the essence has been commodity and that makes it somewhat fake. The McOndo guys are contemporary contemporary contemporary. They're post-postmodern, as the magic realists themselves were post-modern.

I was taken in by their attack on their predecessors and also on the people who endorse the predecessors (aka Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is cited like an A-list fluff star) and make live on these pretty visions, images, of an unreal, floating, and frankly, fictionalized reality that is Latin America. While we strive to believe that magical realism poignantly points out aspects of life that we tend to miss, one could also read it as following the non-perceivable and mythical into the dark hole of unreason, of bad vision, of denial of a real-life-reality that pales in comparison. Zamora and Faris cite writer-critic Julian Barnes in the introduction to Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community to exacerbate the common approach to and emphasis on lo latinoamericano in MR>>>
:"A quota system has to be introduced on fiction set in South America. The intention is to curb the spread of package-tour baroque and heavy irony. Ah, the propinquity of cheap life and expensive principles, of religion and banditry, of surprising honor and random cruelty. Ah, the daiquiri bird which incubates its eggs on the wing; ah, the fredonna tree whose roots grow at the tips of its branches, and whose fibers assist the hunchback to impregnate by telepathy the haughty wife of the hacienda owner; ah, the opera hours now overgrown by jungle. Permit me to rap on the table and murmur "Pass!" Novels set in the Arctic and the Antarctic will receive a development grant."

A big quote, I know, but it speaks wonders (one of which is that MR applies not only to Latin America but to the world). Critics realize the faults of magic realism: its magic can't undo its faults, its shortcomings.. The crazy cliches (like what Barnes describes) and the vague communal ownership over all this stuff has got to go, according to McOndo. I get it, totally. One would get tired of hearing about all this stuff when, after all is said and done, you still eat, shit, sleep and die (pardon the phrase). Latinos are normal people, just like any other place, and MR is a style that can or cannot be applied to Latino writing, according to taste. It's not automatic! There are alternatives!

But then back to roots. Leyendas de Guatemala and Reino de este Mundo are predecessor steps toward magic realism; some consider them part of the package itself. Personally, Leyendas bored me. I'm a postmodern child and I'm used to referential everything, so the floatiness and frankly magical everything that isn't quite relateable but simply exists? It leaves me not knowing which way to step, it's so separate. However now, I can see how just this very quality can make it such a good source for fiction, a novel like Cien Anyos, for example. It has such a high-saturation aestheticism, it would look good in splices on the page. On that note, when I think of Leyendas, I think of fantasy film, like Avatar or Fern Gully; it tells a story, but the vividness of the images takes over plot, characters, action...

Reino de este Mundo sits much closer to Cien Anyos, in that Leyendas is most explicitly a point of inspiration, whereas Reino can much more easily stand on its own (like 100 Anyos does). Connected with my point above, these latter two works are more relatable. Though there are fantastic elements involved in both, they have characters with whom we can empathize, the plots have shape, and there's more of a critical message. Both Carpentier and Marquez are commenting intravenously through the various choices they make in the respective two works, whereas the Leyendas are what they are: legends. They're not so much a return to something, but are that which we might return to (minor points of narration aside: these aren't the parts that weigh heavily).

And how might the McOndo guys feel about Reino... I don't think they'd spit quite so hard. To me, Reino is an historical account fused with life, and I love how real dances with magical here. I venture to say that the fact it is a telling of the past may moderately redeem it in contemporary critical eyes; Carpentier says that it happened, like that, then. Conversely, Marquez attests that it was, it is, and it will be: a fact that McOndo-ists fervently reject ("it" being, made simple, magical realism). But don't get me wrong. I love the MR layers of reality; there should always be some-ones, some-wheres, who emulate that heightened spiritual realm of thought...

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