David Soto Writes

I think I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Category: On Reading

5 Magical Realism Recommendations

Magical Realism – a literary genre or style associated especially with Latin America that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction

I published a “life changing” novel post a while ago and thought it was time for an update, but I wanted to do something a little different this time. I have been in a Magical Realism phase for a while now. Not only reading it but writing it as well. When I thought of writing a list of favorite Magical Realism novels, I realized that I first experienced most of my favorites as movies. In fact, three of the four below I didn’t even know were books until just a few months ago, which is weird because two of them heavily inspired the writing on my own Magical Realism novella even though I hadn’t read them.

Milagro Beanfield War By John Nichols

I was first exposed to this story in the 80s in the form of a rented VHS from the Warehouse Records and Tapes. I loved Robert Redford’s adaptation so much I that watched it anytime I could in the following years. So much so that it got to the point that my father said to me, “Not this dumb movie again!”

Just a few months ago, I was in a bookstore in Boulder, CO and this book was facing out on a shelf at my eye level. I was in shock. What! Was it a book? I thought. I bought it and made it my next read. I’m glad I did because it got me back into magical realism and inspired the story that became my first published piece of fiction, Los Chocolates De Esperanza Diamanté.

Big Fish By Daniel Wallace

One of my top five all-time favorite movies is Tim Burton’s version of this book. I love it so much that it is one of the ten DVDs that I own. Never has the ending not brought a tear to my eye.

I saw this movie when it first came out in 2003, so I was pretty shocked to see it was a book just a few weeks ago. I bought it right away and added to my bookshelf.

The book is a little different but in good ways. It’s funnier for one. I laughed so much more. One significant similarity is that I got a little teary-eyed in the end.

Like Water For Chocolate By Laura Esquivel

One Christmas in the early 90s my mother rented this movie because I’m pretty sure, it was in Spanish, and it was something my grandparents could watch.

I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t think much of it for several more years. Then, as I traveled to Mexico and began to study Spanish, I began hearing of the book over and over again. I eventually bought the Spanish version of the book was determined to read it in its original form. I didn’t. But I did watch the movie and again and found it quite enjoyable. By this time I had discovered Magical Realism and was more appreciative of the film.

Wanting to engulf myself with more Magical Realism books I sought out this one at the used bookstore. When I finally got to it, I couldn’t believe how much it influenced my novella. The odd thing was that I had just finished my manuscript. Could I be have been influenced by something I hadn’t yet read?

Chocolat By Joanne Harris

Again, another movie I fell in love with that I did not know was a book first. This story of a single mother who does the most unheard of things, open a chocolate shop in a small French town right at the start of Lent. This was the second book that I read that causes me to pause and realize that even though I hadn’t read it, it was a big influence on my story about a woman and chocolate.

Stories of Eva Luna By Isabel Allende

As a minimalist, I get rid of books after I read them. Sometimes I give them away. Sometimes I sell them back to the used bookstore. I do not collect them like trophies, though I used to. I refuse to give up this book, though. I loved it so much that I want to share it. I want to read it aloud to a lover in bed, and I fully intend to. That’s why I am keeping it.

From the moment I read the first page of the first story, I was in love with it. The thing about magical realism is that every now and then I read something so beautiful it makes me stop and reflect, and say wow. If I am lucky, it will happen once in a book, which makes it totally worth it to me. In this book in happened on the first page and continued all throughout the book.

The 5 most influential novels of my life.

This is a repost from my other website, www.theprimitveyou.com, that I wrote a few years ago. I feel it belongs here, on my author page.

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to refuse to read fiction. I thought it was a waste of time. I thought that if I am going to read, I need to learn something. Let me back up, for the first 20 years, or so of my life, I didn’t read at all. I was too busy lifting weights and trying to get girls, I guess. What an idiot! Anyway, when I did start reading, it was non-fiction. To be specific, it was “I Married Wyatt Earp” by Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp. Thanks to the movie “Tombstone,” I became obsessed with Wyatt Earp and read every related piece of literature I could get my hands on. (Yes, I have been to his grave, to Tombstone, AZ and named my first dog Wyatt.) I went from Wyatt Earp biographies to those “Idiots Guide…” books. I read a ton of those. Kept them for years too, like they were trophies. I did get a few fiction books in, in those years. When you are deployed and bored, you’ll do anything to keep busy. But I didn’t really allow myself to read fiction until the age of 27. I deployed again and decided to indulge in “Star Wars” novels. This reading was purely for entertainment. I still felt that I was wasting my time, but again, when you are deployed, you have a lot of time to waste. I continued to read mostly nonfiction for and while, until I saw the movie “The Celestine Prophecy.” It was terrible! I knew it was based on a book, one I had previously refused to read because it was fiction, so I immediately went out, got the book and read it. It blew my mind! This was when I realized fiction had something more to offer than entertainment.

Below are five novels that have impacted my life. I guess the total is six if you include the “Celestine Prophecy” mentioned above.

“100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This was my introduction to magical realism. I love this type of writing. What better way is there to express how beautiful a woman is than to tell of how she has to be locked away because, if seen, her beauty would drive men crazy to the point they lose all regard for their own life and eventually die?

I went on a poetry writing stint after reading this book. I just wanted to write beautiful things like Señor Marquez.

Below is something I wrote, a review of the book basically, after reading it in 2006.

Do you know what love is? Have you been in love? Are you in love? Do you remember what it’s like to be in love? If you answered no to any of these questions then read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Name any kind of love, (although they are really all the same, but now is not the time for a lecture) and it is covered in this book. The quintessential example of every kind of love there is, is in this book. Love between lovers, love between husband and wife, love between father and daughter and the love between a man and his cause are just some examples. This book could of been appropriately titled “Lessons in Love” and placed in the self help section of the book store. This book is one of two that have coverted me to reading fiction. Before reading the book I was told that it was life changing. One person even told me it may have even saved her life. So I bought this book hoping for a big change to happen. While reading it, although I couldn’t put it down, I felt a bit dissapointed. There were no life changing words jumping at me as I turned the pages. There were no profound messages like I usually get out the books I normally read. When I finished the book I closed it thinking, wow what a great book, yet still dissapointed that my life hadn’t changed. Well, come to find out, reading this book will make a change in your life. For me it was subtle. It didn’t hit me all at once. It took a few days. It may hit you all at once though. It may happen in the first chapter. It may take several weeks to a year but there will be a change and it will be spectacular when you realize it. Read this book!

Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn

A lot of things over the years have led to my belief in the whole primitive living theory. Many people think that it all started with the paleo diet and the reading of “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. To tell you the truth, the reason I started eating paleo was because of “Ishmael,” although it was years later. Ishmael convinced me that the agricultural age was the beginning of the downfall of man; that this world is overpopulated and it’s because of the abundance of food, food made by man.

Overpopulation is the root cause of every problem we have today in this world. There is a natural order in the world, and it has to do with food. As a hunter, I know first hand that the deer population is a good example of this. If the deer were to be left alone in a NATURAL environment, the average population over several years a would stay about the same. The deer would eat and reproduce. The more food they have, the more their population would grow. The problem is, once the population got to a certain point the availability of the food would diminish. The deer would have to travel further to find more food. Old, weak, and sick deer would not be able to handle this well and would fall victim to predators. Thus, the population would be corrected. With the lower number of deer around, the flora now has the opportunity to grow. Food would eventually be back in abundance, and the cycle would start over again.

There is a problem with this scenario, though. The reality here is that there is an abundance of food available for deer. Whether it’s the food plots intentionally planted for them by hunters or farmer’s crops, the deer have plenty of food available. This results in an over population. Do you know what happens to a species that has an abundance of food and continues to overpopulate their environment? Disease.

“My Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn

Again Ishmael, who is a gorilla, by the way, had a lot to teach me. The most important thing I got out of this book is that there was nothing wrong with me, NOTHING! In fact, just the opposite is true. I am actually the normal one. This is why I can’t fit into this society filled with people who are focused on careers and things and other meaningless shit! I read this book while I was living and volunteering in a very small town in Mexico. When I got to page 204, I broke down. Read about it here.

“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse

I read this book years ago after someone recommended it to me. I don’t remember much from that first reading, but I read it again a couple of years ago. I downloaded a bunch of free books to my Kindle via www.gutenberg.org. Siddhartha was one of these books.

It was during this reading that I discovered the meaning of life. Yep, I said it. I found the meaning of life. That’s a pretty influential book wouldn’t you say? I don’t have time to get into it now. In fact, this is the topic of a book that I have started writing and will never finish.

“Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes

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I was proud of myself for finally finishing.

That poor, crazy, old man.

This 1000 page novel took me two years to read. In between I read several other books and took three semesters of Spanish, so don’t judge. Usually, when I put a book down, I never get back to it. This was one of the few exceptions. Yeah, finishing it was a goal, for bragging rights mainly, but I was drawn to it. I kept coming back to it because this crazy old man led the life I want to live.

He was in love. He was in love with a beautiful princess. Though, she was neither beautiful nor a princess. She didn’t have any idea that this crazy old man was in love with her either but still… love, right?!

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Yes, this is my Don Quixote and Sancho Panza tattoo.

He was brave. He went out into the world to be a hero. Yeah, he would often get his ass kicked and often help people who didn’t need it or even asked for it but who cares? He was a knight.

He traveled the country. He traveled without a care in the world atop his noble steed, Rocinante, who was actually an old nag. Rocinante, much like La Poderosa in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” was old, rickety and sometimes broke down but still got the job done.

Don Quixote is a man who has everything in life I want. He is brave knight who travels the country on his foremost steed fighting dragons and saving people in the name of his love, the beautiful Princess Dulcinea. None of these things were actually true, but they were to Don Quixote and isn’t that what matters?

The coolest thing about this book is that it is the source of the word Quixotic. Which, according to Merriam-Webster Online, is defined as:

 -foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially:  marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

What are some of your most influential novels?

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