By: Rachel Lyle, July 14th, 2017
Here is another Contemporary Lit discussion prompt: One of the trends of the contemporary is to vanish the idea of genre. Do these short stories actually engage in the idea of disappearing genre? Or, are they, in fact, relying on our concepts of genre to make their point? Consider, too, what that point might be. As always, write one to two pages with quotes.
Here was my answer: I agree that in many ways “The Faery Handbag” is not taking part in the idea of disappearing genres but at the same time it is taking part in the idea. It is making or trying to make the idea of both the genres of realism and fantasy disappear but at the same time it is not. It is doing both of these by taking them both and putting the together as one genre called Magical-Realism. I say this because it has elements of real life that the reader knowns are real and true to life and that have evidence of being true enough not to question. One example of real life showing in the story being the fact that the protagonist, Genevieve, has a boyfriend and when their relationship started it was a normal, everyday relationship that that had normal feelings about, “I fell in love with Jake because he told stupid knock-knock jokes to Natalie, and told Natasha that he liked her jeans. I fell in love with Jake when he took me and Zofia home. He walked her up to her front door and then he walked me up to mine. I fell in love with Jake when he didn’t try to kiss me.” (Pg. 10). Meanwhile there are touches of magic and other worldly things, one example being “the hill” that Genevieve’s grandmother, Zofia, talks about in the village where she grew up, she talks about how time worked differently under the hill than it did everywhere else in our world, which is most likely impossible in real life, “The important thing was that you never went down into the hill and spent the night there, no matter how cute the guy from under the hill was. If you did, even if you only spent a single night under the hill, when you came out again a hundred years might have passed.” (Pg. 4). In the story itself it also clearly solidifies that fact that it is magical realism by saying Zofia is just really good liars and the reader should not believe anything that is said in the story, by doing this it is trying to make genre itself disappear, “Zofia would fold up the Scrabble board and shrug at me and Jake. ‘I’m a wonderful liar,’ she’d say. ‘I’m the best liar in the world. Promise me you won’t believe a single word.’”, “Not that she would believe him. Not that you should believe this story. Promise me that you won’t believe a word.” (Pgs. 8, 15). So, in many ways, yes, I agree that this story is encouraging genres and creating new ones in many was but at the same time it is encouraging the idea of disappearing genres.
“The Faery Handbag” is a short story from a collection called Magic For Beginners, for those who don’t know.