Friday, November 6, 2009

Magical Realism

In the opening pages of his novel, Everett Peacock dedicates it to “all the Parrot Heads,” and anyone who has a bit of the Jimmy Buffet-inspired parrothead in him will enjoy this book. It’s everything tropical, with an outstanding fabric of real life in small-town Hawaii woven in the many details. It’s not the sort of book that mentions the “biggies” in Hawaii – no Diamond Head, no Lahaina whaling village, no Volcano National Park. Instead, this is the way that the locals and the kamaainas live – or as close as they can possibly get to it.

The protagonist, who seems to have no name but, “Boss,” lives in a secluded cove and there operates a tiki bar filled with a cast of characters starring Tiwaka, a talking, chocolate-eating, wiser-than-wise parrot and Ococ, a beloved and almost unbelievably ancient dog. There are other denizens of Tiwaka’s, but none of the humans are as finely drawn as the parrot. There are plenty of mysterious and intriguing visitors, too. The basic storyline is of Boss’s unrequited love for Sand Tiki, who works at the bar, is (of course) beautiful, and offers a memorably erotic dance recital at the bar one night. By the end of the book, it looks as if the two will be a couple, and all will live happily ever after in their remote Hawaiian paradise.

Peacock offers the kind of magical realism one rarely finds in English literature, and he carries it off beautifully. Some mighty strange things and people turn up at the bar and some amazing things happen, but none of it is perceived as bizarre or unlikely within the world of the novel. The mark of someone with a real handle on magical realism is one who is able to create something that doesn’t pull readers out of the story and into their critical minds, as they say, “Hey, wait a minute. That’s not right . . . .”  Peacock has this down, and his recollections of his thoughts as a child may be the precursor of that ability. Whether that child’s thoughts are the author’s or Boss’s it is difficult to say, but it is there nonetheless.

The novel is first person from Boss’s point of view, which excuses some of the grammatical choices that will probably drive the grammar police mad. Peacock’s frequent use of run-on sentences gives Boss’s narration a breathless quality, which clashes a bit with his notably laid-back personality, but it works within the magical realism that permeates the entire novel. Wouldn’t living in such a place, and encountering such events, make anyone a bit wide-eyed?

This is a first effort, and it is a short and appealing slice-of-life series of vignettes taken from the kind of mystical tropical paradise that few of us would want to miss. Don’t come to this novel looking for deep, philosophical meanderings, profound, insights into human nature, or an exemplar of the Great Literary Themes such as Man vs. Man and Good vs. Evil. It’s a fun read, and the characters are fun to know.  Don’t underestimate it, either. There is a spirituality of gratitude nascent in Boss’s thoughts about the Great Cosmic Gift Giver.

Perhaps in later books Peacock will put as much energy into plot and theme as he does the characterizations here. In that case, the reader can look forward to a delicious seven-course meal of magical realism. In this case, as long as the reader realizes she is partaking of an appetizer, he will be happy with the taste, too brief though it might be.

KL Stroup
M.Div., Ph.D.

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