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Kafkosh B’Gosh

All realist stories are alike. All non-realist stories are non-realist in their own way.

Over a decade later, I am still fuming over Harold Bloom’s popularizing and unhelpful book How to Read and Why (2001), where, among many vapid generalizations, he says that there are only two routes the short story can take: The Chekhovian route of realism, and the Kafkian route of fantasy. Well, it may be the case that the kind of psychological realism practiced by writers stylistically as diverse as Henry Fielding, Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Hillary Mantel are all the same: since realism operates in the world (it thinks) we share, it presumably cleaves to the same standard across the Western world and wherever the disenchantment of everyday life has taken place. (Note to self: re-read Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis one of these days.) But non-realism? Each novelist, each novel, can play by its own rules, and not cleave to the trail blazed by the one non-realist author, however great, favored by Mr. Western Canon. Furthermore, it’s pretty sloppy thinking to say that all of Kafka’s non-realistic writing constitutes “one” route: “The Metamorphosis” is different from The Trial and The Castle, and both differ from “The Judgment,” and they all differ from “The Penal Colony,” und so weiter.

Well, I’m glad I got that out of my system. Because in the great wide landscape of the fantastic that is available for any non-realistic writer, so far The Flame Alphabet seems to be choosing to invoke a whole lot of aspects of the Kafkaesque for its project. Continue reading

June 7, 2015 Posted by | The Flame Alphabet | , , | 2 Comments