4/1/2014. GUEST BLOGGER PEGGY PAYNE ON NOVELS OF THE SUPERNATURAL AND EXTREMELY NATURAL
The question most writers are asked second (after the universal “What do you do?”) is “What do you write?”
Not such an easy question to answer for novelists whose books deal with both spirituality and the raw details of physical and emotional life.
More important, what if you’re a reader and want to read such a book: where do you look? Again, not so easy.
I find this utterly baffling, since we’re all creatures of both body and soul. But there seems to be some sturdy opposition in our world to dealing with the spiritual and the grittily physical together: same time, same place, same story.
Stories of spirit are categorized generally as religious (piously Christian, usually) or fantasy, sometimes as speculative or sci-fi. But these cannot cover all the possibilities. I like novels that are unshrinking about sex, anger, and life’s messy situations, that take place on earth, and that also present a plausible world of spirit: more God or goddesses than gnomes, for example. I like to enter a story in which there are tangled relationships and almost-visible spirits, spooky events that can happen, that do happen and people don’t know quite what to make of them.
I’m not much interested in magic, by any spelling. Magical realism includes a lot of very good writers—the flagship author being, of course, the wonderful Gabriel Garcia Marquez—but this genre takes a liberty somewhat beyond what seems likely to me, rounding off the edges of daily life, presenting brighter colors somehow and less believable stretchings of conventional reality.
I’ve come across two thoughtful sources that include the kind of “expanded realism” that I like to read and write. And I posted a list of recommendations on Amazon of novels I’ve read and liked that I describe as “Metaphysical Fiction: Spooky, Sexy, Unsettling, Literary.” My list starts with the wonderfully mysterious Jungian-based trilogy by Robertson Davies. The list itself I call “A category hard to define and yet so often unforgettable. Not magical realism. Instead a wider-than-usual view of what’s real and possible. Some more sexy. Some more spooky. Exciting! (Yes, I’ve included novels of my own.)”
The other two sources I mentioned include a list by Richard LeComte: Great Reads that Stretch Reality. I keep meaning to start at the top of his recommendations and read every novel there that I’ve missed.
Secondly, The Visionary Fiction Alliance, of which I can claim to be a founding member (though a rather lazy one), has both a list of examples, ranging to such surprising titles as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and a nice definition: “Visionary fiction embraces spiritual and esoteric wisdom….,” including the following “Characteristic Features of Visionary Fiction:
Growth of consciousness is the central theme of the story and drives the protagonist, and/or other important characters.
The story oftentimes uses reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal events, psychic abilities, and other metaphysical plot devices.”
However we define it, I wish that we had more of it…and a wider recognition …and a clear route for anyone to find it. I wrote about this on my own blog, trying–a bit whimsically–to find the proper shelf for my own novels. Cobalt Blue, I decided, could fit into:
*Literary visionary erotica
*Fiction on addiction
*Gritty tales of alchemical sex
*Midlife breakdowns of disturbing origin
*Sagas of difficult and uninvited religious experiences
*Shockingly-dark-and-yet-gloriously-transformative crises in the lives of women
Or you could call it a novel of kundalini rising, though I doubt if there will ever be a shelf for that. In any event, I love novels that entwine the full experience of physical human life with the tantalizing elusive electricity of the spiritual. I can’t believe that there aren’t a lot of us who share that taste.