Nancy: Lost in Translations

Did you ever answer the question: What would your favorite reading day look like? I occasionally think about this, especially when I’m having a decidedly unfavorite writing day and all I want to do is escape into someone else’s really wonderful story.

My answer to that question varies, but this is one of my favorites: I’m on a comfy sofa, wrapped in a warm blanket, in an old library with soaring ceilings and thousands upon thousands of books stacked to the rafters. You know the kind of place, where you breathe in the smell of yellowing pages and well-worn book bindings. And seated on an upholstered wing chair across from me is a handsome man, a native Spanish speaker, with a well-trained voice (think Placido Domingo in the heyday of his opera singing career). We’re sipping Cognac. And this lovely man is reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s book Shadow of the Wind to me. In the original Spanish.

Yes, it’s a very weird and specific fantasy. But it gets even weirder because, it turns out, I don’t read, speak, or even understand more than a handful of Spanish words.

That’s the beauty of books in translation. We don’t have to be fluent in another language to luxuriate in amazing storytelling by authors like Zafón or the author who started me down the path of love of modern Spanish literature, Gabriel García Márquez. And because I love so many of these books in English, I can only imagine how beautiful they must sound in their original Spanish. If you’re not already a fan of Spanish books in translation, come hither and let me try to convert you by recommending a few of my favorites. Continue reading

Nancy: Do You Believe in Magic?

51vrDAu7cgL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_I recently read Alice Hoffman’s The Third Angel, which brought me back to an element of novels that I really love: magical realism. This is one of those hard-to-define, I-know-it-when-I-see-it aspects of writing. It’s not the same as paranormal stories, which are posited on what ifs. What if vampires were real? What if shapeshifters existed? What if aliens lived among us?

Magical realism, which is most often reserved for more ‘literary’ works and not often applied to genre work like romance and science fiction, is more of a device. It might involve playing with time/timelines, linking causality of seemingly unrelated events, and making the magical and ordinary seem as though they are one in the same. As Bruce Holland Rogers explains in this (older but) helpful article, magical realism paints “the ordinary as miraculous and the miraculous as ordinary”.

While I’m sure I’ve loved stories using these techniques most of my reading life Continue reading