Every story has a subtext–a story within the story. Sometimes there are several, and often subtext reveals more than the story itself. How do we know? The details give us hints and our imaginations fill in the rest.
Want an example? Follow the link and ask yourself–how the good sisters know what they know about which way a penis should point? What other layers of story are implied by this clever bit of advertising?
Overheard in the grocery store.
Younger child: “My cat doesn’t like that.”
Give me a minute. I know this Cat can talk!
Older child: “How do you know?”
“He told me.”
“Cats don’t talk,”
“They do in stories.”
Indeed! Every story has an other-worldly, magical quality where anything can happen. What if . . . cats could talk? What if . . . I were braver, smarter, funnier? What if . . . What if . . . What if . . .
I’m not talking about fantasy. I’m talking about the very real way our minds constantly slip back and forth between reality and our inner musings–what we wish, want, imagine or dream. Who we think we are is often different from how others see us because we include our inner life in our sense of self–something we find hard to share, except in story.
Magical realism is a technique serious writers, like Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Ben Okri and Murakami Haruki, use to try to capture what is fantastical in everyone’s everyday life. Murakami Haruki, for example, slides seamlessly between reality and memory, creating a hyper-reality that represents the way we all let our everyday experiences be colored by our day-to-day anxieties.
The child in the pet food aisle of my local grocery store knew that nothing is as simple as “cats don’t talk.”