Writing At the Edge of the Real

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.

Madeline Moore: Fallen

3 Thoughts on “Writing At the Edge of the Real

  1. mondoafrodisiacoLady Flo on April 11, 2014 at 10:14 am said:

    Real… the Real is only the hard thing. Alphabet letters are signs and words are conventions and the meanning is totally subjective.
    Our sensations, from which own thoughts and words are originated, are something of “real”, only because they are something related to body. Bodies are material, are “an hard thing”, are real.
    Feeling, thoughts and words need body, but mind has the greater rule and mind are not a thing, it’s something else.
    So our thoughts and words are more far from “real” then bodies are.

    I think writing cannot approches the real, not IN words neither “in the aura of their accumulation”. Writing is an illusion and an attempt to approaches the real.

    The Real is not knowable by consciousness as J.-P- Sartre said.

    • We will have to agree to disagree. If the Real cannot ever be accessed, then writing is no more or less an illusion than anything else. However, logic says that if something’s presence informs us, then its absence also informs us – if only in that we were looking for it, and note its absence.

      If we can talk about the idea of the Real, and we understand, in some way, what it refers to – then it isn’t unspeakable, is it?

      • Lady Flo on April 11, 2014 at 3:10 pm said:

        RG, there are a lot of logical concepts here.
        Yes, “if something’s presence informs us, then its absence also informs us”… yes, also if, we are more aware of the presence then the absence… in some cases, for ex…. the music is (almost) absent from my life… someone would says me how much I’m crazy to live without music, but I don’t realize the consequence of its absense has on my life.
        Different is the case when I feeling the absence of a person that I loved. In this case absence become like a presence.
        This is the discriminant… absence has to be something like the presence for telling me something meaningful.

        When I say that writing is an illusion I mean that it is an interpretation of the Real not a description (also when you describe something), not the real. Also the figurative arts are an illusion…. etc.

        Writing is a medium.

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