A Continuum of Imaginative Powers

I enjoy stories about characters with wild imaginations, and that may partly explain why I love children’s books. From Where The Wild Things Are to highly symbolic fairytales to post-modern off-kilter realities, children’s literature is full of dreamscapes and fantastic journeys. But stories of imaginative power don’t end with childhood — there are many examples from general fiction of characters who create rich fantasies.

We all have three lives after all — our public life, our private life and our secret life. We rarely get a glimpse into other people’s secret lives. We may occasionally get bits and pieces, from friends and from family, but fiction offers the most in-depth explorations about how others might think. Our fantasy world is part of our secret world. We rarely share it with others.

That’s if we even have such a world. I have learned over the years that some people do and some people have nothing as organised and detailed as a ‘world’, but we are all creatures with immense imaginative capacity.

Most people spend between 30 and 47 percent of their waking hours spacing out, drifting off, lost in thought, woolgathering…

Scientific American

CONSCIOUS DEPARTURE FROM CONSENSUS REALITY

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The Tale Of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter

As you read “The Tale of Pigling Bland” (1913) imagine Beatrix Potter sitting in a pig shed with her art gear and muck boots on, because that’s how she spent one summer, diligently rendering pigs (and then decking them out in clothes). Apparently she struggled to knock this one out. She’d had a big year.

Despite her illness, her engagement and her Escape To The Country, I’m not surprised she had trouble with this story. It’s a jumbling mess of a plot. Compare Pigling Bland to the tidy narrative of Peter Rabbit. What the hell is even happening in this one? I don’t pretend to even know, but Halloween recently passed, Beatrix did create decent talking-animal body horror fiction, so I’ll give it my best shot and enjoy every minute. Continue reading “The Tale Of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter”

Blackberries by Thomas Kenneally

blackberries

“Blackberries” is a short story by Thomas Keneally, included in an anthology I got free when buying another book at Dymocks back in 2009. Allen and Unwin have since released a number of short stories from big name Australian authors as eBooks, including “Blackberries”, available for a couple of bucks each.

The marketing copy of “Blackberries” is telling:

Austin North sees himself as a fine English teacher in his local high school. His students respect him, and he finds personal fulfillment in teaching them the power of poetry to move and inspire. However, Austin’s self-perceptions are upset by his infatuation with a young Sudanese girl, a recent immigrant to Australia. When Austin realises that he is just another predator in her difficult journey, he is forced to re-examine his own values and relationships.

When composing cover copy, log lines and premises, writers are encouraged to convey ‘some sense of the outcome’. Here, the publisher reveals the main character’s arc: Don’t worry, this isn’t just another story about a middle-aged man’s hard on for a teenage girl! He does experience a character arc! He learns he’s actually a shit! Continue reading “Blackberries by Thomas Kenneally”

Singing My Sister Down by Margo Lanagan

a crab walking on black cracked earth

“Singing My Sister Down” is a horror short story by Australian author Margo Lanagan. Find it in Lanagan’s collection Black Juice, published by Allen and Unwin. Black Juice was published in 2004, but “Singing My Sister Down” has proven especially resonant with readers, anthologised numerous times since. “Singing My Sister Down” is now a modern Australian short story classic.

Reading it again today, I stop halfway through and watch a Cookie Monster skit which has blessedly come through my Twitter feed. It’s just too much. I can’t think of many short stories this intense, though “Brokeback Mountain” is another (more so than the film).

OTHER creepy short stories TO COMPARE AND CONTRAST

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