Impossible Realism

Although it may sound like oxymoron, the term “Impossible Realism” makes a great deal of sense when we permit ourselves to look beyond the quotidian and once again open up fully to wonder, like we used to as children. This is why cheesy horror films and great works of the imagination ‘outside the box’ have one important thing in common—when they succeed, both leave audiences wide- eyed, hand slapped over the mouth, and awestruck. They make us whimper, laugh or cheer like we never do on normal Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays in the middle of our lives. But because at their best they fully engage our imagination, we willingly give up our normal ho-hum to live in worlds where orcs exist, Freddy Kruger sticks his claws through the wall, or Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and sees a bug’s body rather than his own. Living in these extraordinary realities we are fully alive and engaged, thinking with our hearts instead of our heads, willing to go anywhere the stories go because we are in their thrall.

For many adults however, wonder is a guilty pleasure like reading comic books, karaoke, or eating Hostess Snowballs. It’s something for kids—childish, and beyond a certain age vaguely embarrassing. Not something you admit doing if you want to keep your good standing in the Adult Community.

On the other hand, mention names like Murakami (giant talking frogs), Gogol (detached noses found in loaves of bread), Ionesco and his rhinoceroses, Jonathan Lethem (animal private investigators), the wilder short stories of Hawthorne, Julio Cortazar and his human axolotl, Goethe and Christopher Marlowe (Dr. Faustus, I presume?) and the literati quickly bow their heads in deference.
What is more realistic than a bed? Where do we let our guards down more than when we slide beneath the sheets at night and say okay, I’m done. Then we switch off the light, expecting both us and this hour to fade to black.

Or do we? What about that little engine called the unconscious that never stops working and never stops surprising us with its remix tape of our day? How many times do we wake up in the morning and the first thing out of our mouth is where did THAT dream come from?

I recently read a short tale about a bed that tells the secret dreams of its inhabitants. The author got the idea from staring too long at a beautiful black and white photograph by Walker Evans. The picture is of an unmade bed. It looks like someone just got up from either a night full of dreams or messy passion. You’ve seen that bed a hundred times because it is your bed. But what if you were to wake up one morning and something about that bed was different? What if this thing so normally normal has transformed overnight into something… Impossible?

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