What is a writer to do when faced with the realization that the best way to tell a story he wants to tell is in a style that he isn’t all that comfortable with and doesn’t even particularly like to read?
I don’t like magical realism. I forced myself to finish the first 50 pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and then I threw it across the room in frustration and disgust. I loathed it. So sue me. Other than Eduardo Galleano I haven’t been able to get through any of the other much lauded South Americans, either.
I am not entirely consistent. One of my favorite books of the past few years was Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (who is Mexican – Tijuana – by way of Chicago) and it certainly takes a few spins around the room with magical realism. I have never been able to read what is widely regarded as his masterpiece – The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Although on my recent road trip I listened to him read it – he does a wonderful job, which is rare for a writer reading his own book – on my car stereo and enjoyed it thoroughly. It worked for me as a story that someone was telling me in a way that it didn’t work for me to read.
The book I am currently working on has given me fits and starts. Initially it was going to be the middle one of three thematically linked novellas. I finished it, I thought, at about 40,000 words. (Long for a novella but too short for a novel.) But that grand scheme didn’t work out.
Now I’m faced with rewriting it as a full length novel that will stand alone. And I can’t simply expand it. It’s not going to work that way.
Worse yet, it has occurred to me that the story involved can best be told in a way that at least flirts with magical realism, and maybe even has to actually climb into bed with it and get down and dirty.
What’s a writer to do? Sometimes a story will dictate its form and if you want to do an adequate job of telling it, you have to succumb to its demands.
It’s times like this when I have thoughts of going to trade school and becoming something useful, like an electrician.