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Non-Realistic Fiction

Celebrated author and "new journalist" Tom Wolfe recently stirred up a fair amount of controversy with the publication of his literary manifesto, "Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast." The piece is primarily a celebration of realism in fiction. According to Wolfe, realism is far more than a mere "formal device." He compares it to the introduction of electricity in engineering:

For writers to give up this power in the quest for a more up-to-date kind of fiction  it is as if an engineer were to set out to develop a more sophisticated machine technology by first of all discarding the principle of electricity, on the grounds that it has been used ad nauseam for a hundred years.

Needless to say, the trend toward non-realistic fiction during the 1960s and 1970s provokes Wolfe's disdain. He maligns the Magical Realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez along with with such other presumed apostasies as Absurdism and Radical Disjunction, "in which plausible events and plausible characters were combined in fantastic or outlandish ways. . ." But is Wolfe correct in praising realism and ridiculing the fantastic? To refute his case, one need only look at two books by Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.

The earlier book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is by far the more fantastic of the two. It is also more epic in scope, covering several generations of the Buendia family in the fictional Latin American village of Macondo. It chronicles the village's entire history, from its beginnings to its demise. And it includes both the numinous and the mundane, the fantastic and the prosaic.

About halfway through the book, young Aureliano Segundo asks his great-grandmother Ursula if there is any truth to fantastic, supernatural stories of lore. Ursula assures him such stories are true, and "that many years ago the Gypsies had brought magic lamps and flying mats to Macondo." Readers can bear witness; ...

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Non-Realistic Fiction. (2000, January 01). In Retrieved 05:49, February 20, 2017, from