Magic and Unmagic

In the interview with Cesar Aira I posted the other day, he speaks of how his ideal story is the fairy tale, and he mentions Sheherezade in that regard, and this echoed a theme I’ve been thinking of lately, realizing that as a boy raised on fairy tales I have a similar notion. Of all the stories I’ve written, my personal favorite is “Secret Sidewalk”, which is a sort of Arabian Nights-type tale, a series of yarns spun by a young boy trying to talk his little brother to sleep. The setting is a shabby modern broken-down urban waterfront neighborhood and the stories fit into that world, so it is a far cry from faeries and genies and that sort of thing, although there are parallels here and there. Aira also talks of an intersection of surrealism and hyper-realism, another connection with Secret Sidewalk as well as other of my stories. They have an element of the fantastic, whether it be science-fiction-y or generically myth-y, but the stories are told in a most realistic manner, striving to be as down-to-earth as possible given those ingredients. An example of this is “World Weary Avengers”, in which there is a gadget that allows its user to implant thoughts in the minds of passersby, and the inventor uses it for panhandling. Hey, a cup of coffee isn’t free! I enjoy that kind of thing.

I recently found a worthless ring in the street – nothing special about it, probably cost 99 cents if that much – but as a found object nonetheless it hints of magic just for that reason. I’ve been tempted to write a fairy-tale-type story around it, but in this case it would be a decidedly “un-magic” ring. Useless as it is, the ring nevertheless possesses a certain value, engenders a set of hopes and dreams in its wearer. A contrarian fairy-tale of sorts, but the story would need more than that, more than the simple magic of failure which adorns our daily life so efortlessly. In the fairy tales of my childhood such a ring, so common and cheap, would undoubtedly lead to great achievements of luck and glory. It may fail the first and second son, but the third son would ultimately triumph over every odd and obstacle.

I did once write a novel called “The Magic of Failure”. Great title, but the book was an utter fiasco. Who knows, maybe I will re-purpose the title. It does seem daunting, though. A doomed title if you will.

But the ring is only one idea. I generally need a cluster of notions before anything starts to form, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

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