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Playing Around with a Story Line in Different Literary Genres
Here’s Writing Leap #2. Writing in MAGICAL REALISM
Magical Realism is a literary mode where everyday fictional reality flows together seamlessly with magical happenings.
It’s the magic I love the best. The wildly creative take on the mundane brings me to deeper truths, like dreams.
Are you tempted to try writing something in magical realism?
Remember, as we all know deep down, it’s the mystery and joy of the writing process and the deep self-validation of “having written” that really counts, not a perfect result. Don’t obsess. Allow yourself to be terrible. It might be wonderful. Just play around with it—and leap!
Story Line: My Grandmother Always Wore a Babushka
OR if you like this better
Come on. Sit down and go into your creative space. Use the story line (very loosely or otherwise) and write something in magical realism. Of course, you can start off by saying that your grandmother, or somebody else’s grandmother, never wore a babushka and go from there.
Here’s my take on My Grandmother Always Wore a Babushka.
My Ukrainian grandmother, Eva, leaned her bulky figure over her big black stove to feed it more wood. She wore her dark flowered babushka on her head indoors and out. I was six and wondered if she slept in it.
Her pirozhki were almost done baking and a yeasty, dill fragrance wafted around me and my doll. The kitchen was a melancholy, severe gray just like Nanny herself. She had lived fifty years in this country with an ache in her heart, never allowing herself to learn English, always yearning to return home to her brothers and sisters on the farm in Ukraine, where my god the real apples grew and the cherries ripened so sweet you wouldn’t believe.
Nanny wasn’t a hugger.
She pulled out two trays of pirozhki from her small oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Her tired smile flickered at me through her sternness. Her teeth were probably sitting in a glass of water on the kitchen table.
She handed me a perfect, warm, golden-crusted morsel stuffed with meat. I gobbled it down in a gulp and that made her laugh briefly.
I’ve been longing for her pirozhki all these years later.
So off to the Russian neighborhood in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn with my family in search of the perfect pirozhki stuffed with beef and dill.
The open window of a busy grocers offered stacks of feathery blini pancakes soaked in butter alongside potato and onion pies. Perozhkis? Without looking at us the large woman in a wraparound apron who tended the window jabbed her finger towards a tray of big, fried dumplings. Did she have smaller ones that were baked in yeast dough? She continued to point an impatient finger at the large fried things.
A ghostly shape emerged from the midst of the strollers and bustlers on Brighton Beach Avenue. She floated high in front of me, her flowered babushka tied over her granite gray hair which I knew she pulled back tightly into a bun.
“Ach! No, those are terrible,” Nanny scoffed in Ukrainian. I understood her. I don’t speak Ukrainian. Nobody else seemed to notice her.
My son tried a fried pirozhki despite my protests. “Delicious,” he said. But then he wasn’t obsessed like I was.
Nanny hovered above.
A shot of vodka with cucumber slices sounded good. The dark bar was decorated with gold-leafed icon paintings. A quick “down it goes” and we filed back outside where the sun glared. I was caught up in everything Russian and had almost shouted, “Na Zdorovie!” Cheers! And smashed my glass on the barroom floor. I should have.
“Café Stupki!” Nanny hummed. She swooshed above us leading the way. I was ever so slightly tipsy. It was only noon after all. I kept step with the strains of balalaika music in a minor key that spilled out the open door of a CD shop.
“Sit here,” Nanny said. “I’ll tell you what to eat. Forget the pirozhkis. No good here.”
The walls in this Ukranian café were covered with embroidered peasant blouses and paintings of silver samovars with spigots. I felt my roots. And kind of close to Nanny.
“Start with the pickled herring with onions and boiled potatoes. You won’t like it—it’s fishy. But it’s Ukrainian,” Nanny’s ghost said, always in her language. I still understood her perfectly.
“The hot borsch isn’t bad,” she added. “Although I add beet kvass and soured apples in mine. Much better.”
Nobody else was aware of Nanny and nobody talked. We just put noses to the bowl, inhaled the sharp/sweet fragrance of beets and spooned up the purple soup. The sour cream on top melted pink.
Personally I would have liked roasted garlic to spread on the thick black bread. Nanny thought so too and floated back to the kitchen to chastise the chef.
“The pirozhkis are here in Brighton Beach somewhere,” Nanny said, floating back out to the dining room ceiling. Her arms were folded across her ample bust. “But you’ll never find them like mine.”
Linking the Arts
Books & Stories I Love
by Alice Hoffman is written
as magical realism
Words I Love
(in the sense of playfulness, something fanciful and endearing and not quite real)
Magical Realism is often filled with whimsy.
Artwork I Love
Chagall, “Angel Bay with Bouquet of Roses,”
evokes magical realism
I’d love to hear your thoughts about magical realism and this writing adventure in general. Did you try it?
Writing Leap #3 upcoming: Writing the Anecdotal Recipe using our story line, “My Grandmother Always Wore a Babushka,” or “Families” as a touch-off point. New story lines coming up after that.