Monday, November 17, 2008

Reality Chickens Come Home to Roost

Dan Green responds to Nigel Beal.

Once more with feeling: the boogey man of Realism.

And once again, my problem with literary realism begins with the problem of assuming that "reality" --of world or character, is something we just know when we see it. That it is not, in fact, the problem.

I don't understand what Nigel, or anyone, means by "natural;" and as what we take as "real" in the physical world is for physicists but a sensual phantasmagoria, so too, the apparent reality of character and self. What is more, it doesn't take special tools and measurements to notice this. While we can never entirely escape the phantasmagoria of character, self, society--it is a stage setting riddled with holes, anything but a seamless impenetrable surface. We have but to close our eyes in sleep and it shatters into splinters and fragments... or to open them--to rouse ourselves from our habitual waking sleep to realize that the phantom reality is not a given of the objective world, but a shimmering mutable composite, a collective creation.

This is not for me an inference drawn from abstract thought, but rather, an attempt to name what is otherwise an unnameable experience, how I find myself un-made in this world again and again.

How then, as a writer concerned with reality, am I to ignore this, ignore the tattered fabric, the frayed threads and ribbons fluttering in the wind of a reality beyond that of the phantasmagoria? What possible motive to do so other than to tell lies, to bring false comfort; why would I want to do nothing more than polish mirrors for readers to use to behold images of our shared illusions of self and world?

And why would I want to read what is neither comfort, nor even an escape, but a mockery of our fragmented reality, of our effort to build together a humanly habitable place in a world that is anything but whole?

As I noted in a comment I left on Legendumst, what the blinkered pursuit of the "natural," (maybe we should call it "lifeyness,")generates. are Reality Chickens: the Reality Chickens of commercial fiction… Reality Chicken factories safely caged laying our breakfast eggs on command, turning themselves, shmoo-like, into oceans of identical artery clogging nuggets."

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