I love books.
I get lost in bookstores.
Give me a free day, let me pick the schedule and we will undoubtedly end up surrounded by used paperbacks and that particular, sunlight-attracting, dusty haze specific to newly-rifled stacks of once abandoned literature.
My current favorite type of fiction?
A sub-genre most oft described as “magic realism.”
“What is that?” you ask.
Think of it as completely believable stories – our world, our rules – but with slight and suddenly discovered wrinkles.
One day you wake up and can taste feelings in food. (The plot of one of my favorite books ever.)
You are living in a war-torn country full of blood and fear and nothing is secure or assured – but you find that there are doors that suddenly appear that whisk you away to other places in the world. Like a video game warp zone. (This is also a plot from a new favorite book.)
Imagine a version of the past where slavery wasn’t erased, but the method that allowed the oppressed to escape wasn’t a figurative railroad – it was an actual train! (This won a Pulitzer!)
As I have discovered my hankering for such devices in the stories I digest, I have been curious about why these elements connect with me. And this has led me to look back on the magic in my own life.
As a kid on a family vacation, I found myself in rush hour traffic standing alongside a broken-down van – until an unsummoned tow truck showed up with little warning and swept us away to safety with ease.
A week after my best friend died, I slept and had an authentic encounter with him as he held my newborn son and apologized for his departure.
Hours after my mom had a heart attack, a nurse in full scrubs paid for everything I had in my hands at the hospital gift shop with no warning and very little explanation. And then she shuffled back to surgery.
These stories can be explained rationally.
Time and childhood nostalgia have likely blurred the details of the car trouble.
My grief over the loss of my friend manifested a moment inside my brain to bring me peace.
My fear was clearly visible in that gift shop and that nurse was feeling especially generous.
Those things are probably true.
But most days I would rather believe in magic.
Now hand me another one of those paperbacks…