Fantastical Aspirations of Reality

As much as I like escapism, there is something inevitably empty in pure fluff. This may suffice for times of relative idolatry, such as seaside vacations and the interminable wait of doctors’ offices and legal proceedings. For really enjoyable reading though, I want something more, a deeper level.

In ‘an American Childhood’, Annie Dillard wrote, “The trick of reason is to get the imagination to seize the actual world—if only from time to time.”

There is a space behind the page, a fantastical world filled with jabberwocks, un-killable secret agents, and sharks of surprising focus and memory. We like to go there. It is a nice place, a safe place away from what troubles us from day to day. That place shifts ever so slightly from semi-pointless entertainment to something of powerful magic when a thread of reality finds its way amongst the creations.

I don’t mean that the story is believable, that the events could conceivably happen. I don’t mean that the internal logic is consistent, though that is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t mean necessarily that it is even artfully written.

I mean that something in the story grabs you by the gut and screams for acknowledgment. I mean you see a little bit of your life reflected in the gloss and sheen of that far away world. I mean that something in the character’s experience resonates with you and makes you think, “Yeah, I’ve felt that.”

This is something to which a great author can aspire, a touch of reality that stings the soul and stirs the heart of even the most fanciful reader.

Best of luck!

(Note from Kevin: You still need to nominate stories and poems for Elsha’s book of ficlets!)

4 comments Posted 2010-07-10 Author: THX 0477


  • Stovohobo

    I recently was looking for some escapism and reread the Harry Potter series. All I can say is, I can see why they were so successful. Rowling does a very good job of what you’re describing.

    Anyway, I agree with you. Nice post.

  • Eloquent Mess {(LoA)}

    Stovo, I thought of the exact same example.

  • Edcrab

    I can agree with this. For me, it’s about the believability of the characters as people; buying into their experiences and conflicts and loves and losses and successes and failures. If you can summon up an interest in the cast, it doesn’t matter how outlandish the setting is- you’ve got a solid foundation to work with and the narrative can only be the stronger for it.

  • Browncoatben

    Edcrab…I know exactly what you mean. I’m reading a book right now that’s just the opposite. The Unincorportaed Man by Dani Kollin boasts this wonderfully interesting and different world, with well thought-out concepts and imagery. The characters are well developed and complex. But the dialogue is just unvelievable. If only it were, it would be one of the best contemporary sci-fi’s I’d read.