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Magic Street, by Orson Scott Card Book Review | SFReader.com
Magic Street, by Orson Scott Card Genre: Modern/Urban Fantasy Publisher: Del Rey Published: 2005 Review Posted: 9/21/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Magic Street, by Orson Scott Card
Book Review by Teresa Baker
Have you read this book?
Magic Street is an Urban Fantasy. It is set in and around Baldwin Hills, 'a middle-to-upper-middle-class black neighborhood in Los Angeles between La Cienega and La Brea.' (pg. 394) It is a real place, visited by author Orson Scott Card, and directly responsible because of an adjacent facility, for the core concept of Magic Street. I tell you this because sometimes the best fantasy begins with a seed of reality. In Magic Street it is a place. A place like any other, a community you can walk about in and see for yourself, a place that, if substituted by your own neighborhood, would still be able to contain the fantasy without missing a beat. And if it could be your street then you could have been the one visited by Bag Man; or the one dreaming the wishes of others; or the woman who raises a boy born of magic.
Mack Street was born in to the Baldwin Hills community in an extraordinary way. Ceese Tucker found the new born infant out by the drain pipe, in a plastic grocery bag, covered in ants, and brought him home. Mrs. Tucker figured Ura Lee Smitcher, being a nurse, was the one to raise him and so she did. Ceese helped and as they grew up the neighborhood knew that Mack and Ceese were pretty much joined at the hip. It was all good; everyone treated Mack like family.
When Mack realized he was having odd dreams that told him all the deepest wishes of everyone on the street he learned quick to keep them secret; and after what happened to Tamika he knew his cold dreams could come true but not the way the wishers wanted them too. It was a lot for a five year old to cope with, but he figured out a way to stop himself from finishing his cold dreams so people wouldn't end up getting what they wished for in a bad way.
The strength of a successful urban fantasy isn't in how fantastical the tale is, but in how the ordinary people in the story respond to the peculiar twist reality thrusts upon them. The more familiar the characters the more textured and exotic, yet probable, the fantasy feels. The more likely it seems that you could walk down your block, look out of the corner of your eye, find a Skinny House and walk into it, just like Mack did. And if you can see a house no one else can and walk in to it, what's the big deal if its back yard is Fairyland, Puck was your mother's 'midwife' and the one who's been twiddling with your dreams? Once you wrap your mind around that you can easily be nonchalant when you learn that Oberon and Titania are imprisoned deep in woods that aren't there in the real world. And knowing that you came in to this world in a weird way wouldn't it be it nice to finally find out how? How bad can it be to learn who your father is.?
Magic Street should appeal to a wide range of readers because of Mr. Card's approachable, comfortable style. The writing is direct and brings the community and the characters into instant focus to firmly establish the reality that anchors the fantasy. Witness this conversation between Mrs. Tucker and Ura Lee Smitcher, before Mack comes into their lives. They are watching Ceece Tucker and a neighborhood ne'er-do-well.
"... How you know they got weed?"
"Cause Ceese keeps slapping his pocket to make sure something's still there, and if it was a gun it be so heavy his pants fall down, and they ain't falling, and if it was a condom then it be a girl with him, and Raymo ain't no girl, so it's weed."
"And you see all that out this magic window."
"It's a good window," said Ura Lee. "I paid extra for this window."
"I paid extra for the rope swing in my yard," said Madeline. "You know how fast boys grow out of a rope swing? About fifteen minutes."
"So I got the better deal."
"And you sure they going up to that nasty little park at the hairpin turn."
"Where else can kids in Baldwin Hills go to get privacy, they can't drive yet?"
"You know what?" said Madeline. "You really should be somebody's mama. Your talent being wasted in this one-woman house."
"Not wasted -- I'm here to give you advice."
"You ought to get you another man, have some babies before too late."
"Already too late," said Ura Lee. "Men ain't looking for women my age and size, in case you notice."
"Nothing wrong with your size," said Madeline. "You one damn fine-looking woman, especially in that white nurse's uniform. And you make good money."
"The kind of man looks for a woman who makes good money ain't the kind of man I want raising no son of mine. They enough lazy moochers in this world without me going to all the trouble of having a baby just to grow up and be another." Those are real people, folks.
Magic Street injects a smidgeon of Shakespeare in to your brain so obliquely that by the time you've spotted it (out of the corner of your eye, as it were) you aren't intimidated by it, just curious. It shapes the story, but doesn't define it. First and foremost, Magic Street is the story of a community that takes care of its own and unites to solve its troubles. The troubles are indeed very peculiar, but how often in life are problems ordinary?
The universal core of every life crisis, big or small, intensely personal or as public as a hurricane or an earthquake is a variation of, "you'll never understand it; you weren't there." No matter that outside help will arrive it can never dilute the bond built among those who were there and lived through it. As the mystery of Mack Street's life unfolds, the community is inexorably drawn into the fantastical events surrounding him. Beyond their neighborhood the world goes about its business having no clue that a catastrophe is brewing around the next corner; that genuine magic is happening as they try to get to work. The people of Baldwin Hills are living it, but no one had any expectation that the outside world would ever understand the problem let alone see the solution so obvious to those needing it. It's no surprise then that they get down to doin' what needs doin', no matter how odd that turns out to be.
There is magic in all of us if only we will step up and use it wisely. That message is the real magic of Magic Street: ordinary people come together to make their community, their piece of reality, whole and healthy again. And if it can happen in Baldwin Hills, it can happen in your neighborhood, too.
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