While I’m on the subject of fabulous realities…
The phrase came to me by way of Ken Macrorie’s Telling Writing, published in 1970, and still one of the best books about writing and teaching writing that I know. It came to Macrorie by way of Thoreau: “Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truth, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights Entertainments.”
According to Macrorie, a fabulous reality is something we encounter in the ordinary world that surprises us. “It is not fairly surprising, but absolutely surprising, because it is unique,” he wrote. “Tension is necessary to make a fabulous reality. Two things that do not belong together touch in some way. And their touching creates waves of further suggestion that are not stated.”
Having collected fabulous realities for more than thirty years now, I’ll add another indicator: discovering one is bound to make you smile. One of my first was a sign on the door of an office at the Indiana State Fair that said “Rabbit Director.” Typing it right now makes me smile…again. What the heck is a rabbit director? What, exactly, would his duties be? Would any kid, anywhere, asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, answer, “Rabbit Director at the Indiana State Fair?” I mean, really!
Sometimes fabulous realities make their way into stories—like the pink Volvo, the punk couple with the beautiful baby, the 7 year-old Elvis impersonator I wrote about earlier. But, mainly, they just bring a shock of pure delight into an ordinary day. Some things just shouldn’t be forgotten, it seems to me, so I have little notebooks full of them. Here are a few I’ve come upon lately:
* An advertisement for “Clown Therapy.”
* A large white bra lying in the middle of the park across the street from my house.
* A guy wearing a T-shirt with a facsimile of the Burger King logo on it—and written on the hamburger: JESUS IS KING
* A display of kid-size pink rifles at a gun show. The sign advertising them said, “My First Rifle.” In small print below: “Not a toy.” (I was doing research for a book I’m writing. That’s why I was there. Honest!)
* An elderly lady in Las Vegas dressed in a full-length mink coat and rhinestone flip-flops, an oxygen pack tucked neatly into her pocket.
Nothing cheers me up like a good fabulous reality! Anybody have a good one to share?