No matter how often I revisit Lacan’s concept of The Real – its impossibility, its muteness – I always come back to Robert Graves’ poem, “The Cool Web.” The Real is where the signifieds live, in all their raw nowness, their newness, their unremitting foreverness. And a lot of what I’ve read tells me that, at least to Lacan, there is no speaking the Real, and no writing it either. I don’t think there is a writer alive who accepts that and just walks away. As much as language is part of the structure of the Symbolic, its order, its rules and its dialectics evidence the presence of themselves, but equally speak to the possibility of their failure, their absence.
It isn’t IN the words that I think writing approaches the real. It is in the aura of their accumulation, the manner in which they fail and fall short, the pattern they lie in when broken – especially in poetry.
I’m not a poet, nor do I critique poetry. I don’t want to. I don’t want to relinquish my position as inhaler of its vapours to plunge my hand in and tease it apart.
Narrative prose is different. Yes, it has its own poetics, but story and what a story opens up in the mind of the reader is also, I think, an immanence. It can brush against the real. It does this by forcing experience sideways, into the structure of storytelling. It slows reality down, speeds it up, forces you to take an alien view, pushes you into the head of the other momentarily. There is a delicious familiarity and at the same time a complete disorientation in the experience of story written well. Prose has a vertigo that can allow the wind of the Real to push through the curtains.
I just read Madeline Moore’s short piece ‘Fallen’.
Even as I attempt to summarize it, I ruin it. But let me do that, just to show you how much of a betrayal summaries can be. Fallen is the interior experience of a woman who has just lost her lover and goes through the grieving process while the city she lives in is gripped in an ice storm. Geeze, you say, how cliche. What a clumsy, overused metaphor.
I say… bullshit. Go read it. Feel it. Be terrified. Weep. Fall.