The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of: The Real, the Unreal, and the Maltese Falcon

At the end of the 1941 John Huston film The Maltese Falcon, based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, Sergeant Tom Polhaus asks Sam Spade about the heavy, black statuette of a falcon that was the cause of all the mystery and murder.

“Heavy,” he says. “What is it?”

Our hard boiled detective, Sam Spade, replies, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

maltese-falcon-what-is-it

Continue reading “The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of: The Real, the Unreal, and the Maltese Falcon”

An All-Encompassing Definition of Reality: The Conclusion to Narrative Madness

The Non-Existence of Nonfiction

In my book Narrative Madness, edited by Katie Fox, I showed that nonfiction is an impossibility since every text and utterance requires the invention of a fictional speaker who is never the whole person; it filters meaning through the speaker’s or writer’s name, uses narrative language which influences perception and behavior, relies on man-made symbolic code, necessitates the selection of subjectively interpreted facts while overlooking vast amounts of information, organizes information in artificial ways, redirects the future through a present discussion of the past,  acts upon world, community and self rather than merely reporting on them, involves imperfect mindreading and empathy games, utilizes preexisting forms and genres which affect content and meaning, channels voices of predecessors who have previously used the language and textual resources, constructs a reader or listener, and requires recreation and performance by the actual reader or listener.

It is all fiction. All of it.

Continue reading “An All-Encompassing Definition of Reality: The Conclusion to Narrative Madness”

The Magic Word: Words Have Power

“Words are not magical,” one professor said, waving her hand to indicate the empty space in the center of the ring of chairs. “When I say ‘table,’ no table appears.”

In her attempts to steer us away from the metaphysical and romantic views of language and ground literary theory and discussion in the relatively more scientific and pragmatic language of structuralism, she inadvertently convinced me that words were magical. For a table did appear.

Continue reading “The Magic Word: Words Have Power”

Purpose: To Rehabilitate Reality through Metafiction

It might seem that I am trying to demonstrate the unreality of reality. Many others have done so, including Taoists, Hindus and Buddhists. Jews, Christians and Muslims, following Plato’s lead, think God’s ideal realm is realer than this world. Religious people are not the only ones to call reality an illusion. Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” and Jacques Derrida suggested, “There is nothing outside the text.”

Instead, my purpose is to show that the distinction between fiction and reality is artificial, created by language. Fiction and reality both exist as concepts within the same linguistic structure; symbols and stories are essential parts of our reality system. Everything we talk and write about is fiction, yet fiction has material existence, therefore it is real. Separating fiction from reality only drives us, like Don Quixote, to narrative madness.

Continue reading “Purpose: To Rehabilitate Reality through Metafiction”

Fiction Precedes and Defines Non-Fiction

Yet even fiction is a fiction, a word which developed out of the Latin fingere, “to fashion or form.” In the Oxford English Dictionary, the first definition of “fiction,” now obsolete, is “the action of fashioning or imitating,” and is related to the verb “to feign.” The word first referred to all kinds of art,  “The . . . Art of Painting . . . surpassing by so many Degrees . . . all other Human Fiction, or imitative Art” (Lord Shaftesbury in his Characteristicks).

Continue reading “Fiction Precedes and Defines Non-Fiction”

Believe Everything: It’s All True

I start writing this blog in my dreams, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. As I showed in The Magic Trick: Fiction is Reality, dreams are real, they happen. Every statement is a fiction, as I demonstrated in It’s All Fiction: Another Attempt to Tell the Story, yet we keep looking for truthiness. Why not abandon such a Quixotic quest? Why do we keep looking for truth?

Truth is a process not a product, an attempt, not an achievement. Truth is relative; different kinds of writing are true in different ways. Some writings may be true because the facts are very close to “reality”. Others may be true because they more accurately convey the writer’s experience of the event, the feelings, the impressions, and the personal significance. Some writings express a truth metaphorically or artistically or religiously or scientifically. All truth is partial and biased, but it is still true. In fact, it is all true in a sense. It is all true because it all exists, in coded form in books, databases and synapses in the brain, true because writing takes place as real events, events which actually happen, when the writer is writing and the reader is reading.

Continue reading “Believe Everything: It’s All True”

The Magic Trick: Fiction is Reality!

Now that I have ripped up the book, I hand it back to you whole. I told you all writing is fiction, now I tell you all fiction is real. A magic trick!

As all of you know, magic tricks are fake. Alas, how we regret learning that the magic trick which put us into ecstasies of delight was false. Our father teaches us the important lesson that the magician was performing tricks to entertain us. We do  not believe our dad until he shows us how the trick was done, and then we realize begrudgingly that the magician was a liar. Yet we hold out the hope that the next magician will have some real power. We watch carefully trying to catch him at his tricks, but we hope, nevertheless, oh how we hope, to find one trick that cannot be figured out. We wait for the day when there will be magic, real magic! We are ready at any moment to believe.

Continue reading “The Magic Trick: Fiction is Reality!”