Writing into the Real

I'm in the midst of writing a play that makes use of fantasy and surrealism, and also in the middle of writing a novel that does the same. So I've been drawn to other writers who make use of these devices to write reality in a way that becomes more real than realistic straight narrative.

Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake uses a single fantastic device -- a psychic ability to feel in food the feelings of those who have had a hand in growing, cooking, and transporting it -- as a metaphor for the ways we touch each other inadvertently, clumsily, deeply, ineradicably with the atmospheres we carry and bestow. Bender packs rich, realistic detail into this tale of a lonely young girl and then come the psychic gifts which at first appear as a curse, all told in high metaphor and fabulous imagery. The book is like a movie made at Pixar, animated and intelligent, universal and not cloying.

I gravitate to reading and writing reality increasingly in metaphor and fantasy because it tells the truth better than facts. And nothing gives you more of a sense of your own reality than finding yourself in a character between the covers of a book. For one thing, it's an experience that lasts longer than the longest movie. And if you have a vivid imagination, the images are as memorable as any movie's -- more for those of us who are verbally oriented.

You can do a lot with fantasy in all media, poetry included. In my forthcoming poetry collection (can it really at last be coming out this fall? After having been "book left at the altar" by a publishing company that went out of business, I feel a sense of fantasy about Gods of Water and Air ever appearing! It has a strong element of fantasy, many poems that are surrealistic or what I think of as my own coined fairytales. I will keep reading and writing with an increasing element of fantasy tucked right into the midst of linear narrative. Like books that combine poems and prose (rare) I find it an immensely pleasing (new) genre of writing.

What shall we call it? Reality in Flight??