A literary genre characterized by exceptional length, frenetic action, offbeat characters, and long digressions on topics secondary to the story. (Cf. magical realism.)
White Teeth had, in the end, no harsher critic than Zadie Smith herself.
Exasperated by the enormous reputation accorded her debut, she disparaged it as "the literary equivalent of a hyperactive, ginger-haired, tapdancing 10-year-old". Her second most severe critic, James Wood, suggested the novel was an example of "hysterical realism", characterised by "a pursuit of vitality at all costs".
David Sexton, review of Zadie Smith, The Autograph Man,The Evening Standard (London), September 3, 2002
Recent novelsveritable relics of St. Vitusby Rushdie, Pynchon, DeLillo, Foster Wallace, and others, have featured a great rock musician who, when born, began immediately to play air guitar in his crib (Rushdie); a talking dog, a mechanical duck, a giant octagonal cheese, and two clocks having a conversation (Pynchon); a nun called Sister Edgar who is obsessed with germs and who may be a reincarnation of J. Edgar Hoover, and a conceptual artist painting retired B-52 bombers in the New Mexico desert (DeLillo); a terrorist group devoted to the liberation of Quebec called the Wheelchair Assassins, and a film so compelling that anyone who sees it dies (Foster Wallace). ...
This is not magical realism. It is hysterical realism. Storytelling has become a kind of grammar in these novels; it is how they structure and drive themselves on. The conventions of realism are not being abolished but, on the contrary, exhausted, and overworked.
James Wood, "Human, All Too Inhuman," The New Republic, July 24, 2000
The theme of the conference is "Legacy of a Revolution - One Hundred Years of Filipinos in the United States" and will include topics such as "Stories of Descendants - Legacy of the Spanish-American War," "Filipinos in Entertainment," "Filipinos in Northwest and Hawaii," "Filipino Americans in the U.S. Military," "Filipinos in the Mainstream," "Hysterical Realism: A Century of Myths, Stereotypes and Misrepresentations."
Ronnie Alejandro, "Fil-Am history group to meet in Oregon, Manila," The Filipino Reporter, August 13, 1998
James Wood, mentioned in the above citation, is the literary critic of The New Republic and is the coiner of the phrase hysterical realism (see the earliest citation, below). I found dozens of articles and Web pages that mentioned hysterical realism. However, although I wasn't able to find any articles in major publications that used the phrase without referencing Wood as the coiner, I did find quite a few online sites that didn't mention Wood. All of this bodes well for the longevity of a useful phrase that's only about a year and half old.