Magical Realism. It can have little magic. Exhibit A: Tom Drury’s The Driftless Area. The dreary tale of a Midwestern simpleton, Pierre Hunter. Not a bad guy. Tries to do the right thing, but he’s an idiot.
The reader gets the impression that the author thought long and hard on the characters’ full names, names of towns (which Saint Ivo is your town named after???) and the name of the bar that Pierre works at. Those bland details may move someone disconnected from reality, e.g., an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but it falls flat for someone not currently on drugs. Even if these clever details resonate, they do little for the story.
If you are looking for another strike, there is some pretention here too. The publisher includes Questions for Discussion on the final 3-pages of the book. While that ink is always appreciated, the publisher frames the questions as if this book is an acknowledged seminal work. Linking the it to the Coen Brother, Jonathan Franzen, Charlie Chaplin, Hemingway, Odysseus…Thelma & Louise for Chistsakes!!! Out of context, but question 4 is How do we begin to realize we are in a fabulous tale… Tom Drury is an acclaimed writer, so he isn’t written off yet.