A few notes on Imagining the Real
The kind of thing that pass through one's mind under the dentist's drill. Twelve points toward the idea of Imagining the Real.
1) A forthright acknowledgment of the fact of language is the one thing that matters in distinguishing Establishment Literary Fiction (Mark Thwaite's term) from literature. Plot, storytelling, emotional involvement--The Tempest has all that, and we're never allowed to forget that it's all play.
2) Dennis Johnson and synesthesia.
Why shouldn't sweat squeak? There's more to mind than conventional Horatios have dreamt of in their philosophies.
3) Imagination is not fancy. Imagination is the measure of our capacity to recognize the Real.
4) We can only represent representation, never the Real.
...but we can imagine it. Though we cannot represent what we have imagined.
5) What is real cannot be possessed, least of all in knowledge... unless we mean that in King James' sense.
6) No one can see himself. Or think of himself. All that complicated organic mechanism that works to integrate the as yet unnumbered brain functions into the semblance of a whole--of selfhood, falls apart the instant we turn our mental gaze on what--until that moment--we felt to be our self.
More simply put: we are not present in our own division.
7) Presence matters.
8) Language, too, is real. That means, Language, as such, can become present. Finding Presence in "good sentences" is like dissecting a cat to find the purr.
9) The most superficially "representative" fiction, may be as engaged on the level of language as any "avant garde" or experimental work. I would hold Shirley Hazzard's Transit of Venus up as an example of exactly this. A comparison with the letters of Emily Dickinson would be helpful here.
10) Engagement, not Representation.
11) All representation is second hand, hence, the tendency of those who pursue it to retreat to the Common Coin.
12) The first requirement for a disengaged criticism, is the willful refusal to read.