Jorge Luis Borges on fantasy writing

Leonard Durso

Interviewer: There is an element of fantasy in your work, then–which leads me to ask you about the fantastic. You use the word a great deal in your writing, and I remember that you call Green Mansions, for example, a fantastic novel.

Borges: Well, it is.

Interviewer: How would you define fantastic, then?

Borges: I wonder if you can define it. I think it’s rather an intention in a writer. I remember a very deep remark of Joseph Conrad–he is one of my favorite authors–I think it is in the foreword to something like The Dark Line, but it’s not that. . .

Interviewer: The Shadow Line?

Borges: The Shadow Line. In that foreword he said that some people have thought that the story was a fantastic story because of the captain’s ghost stopping the ship. He wrote–and that struck me because I write fantastic stories…

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dreams vs reality

Leonard Durso

there will always be
the dreams
and those ghosts
who inhabit them
playing out scenarios
of what if
almost
could be
lives reinvented
on the page
as part of
a human comedy
to keep oneself
amused
a fanciful rendition
of lives lived
somewhere else
on a border
where separate realities
converge
to clamor
for attention
in the dark

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from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: 2

Bolivar was resting comfortably against a wagon wheel and ignored the sally. He was wavering in his mind whether to stay or go. He did not like travel–the thought of it made him unhappy. And yet, when he went home to Mexico he felt unhappy too, for his wife was disappointed in him and let him know it every day. He had never been sure what she wanted–after all, their children were beautiful–but whatever it was, he had not been able to give it to her. His daughters were his delight, but they would soon all marry and be gone, leaving him no protection from his wife. Probably he would shoot his wife if he went home. He had shot an irritating horse, right out from under himself. A man’s patience sometimes simply snapped. He had shot the horse right between the ears and then found it difficult to get the saddle off, once the horse fell. Probably he would shoot his wife in the same way, if he went home. Many times he had been tempted to shoot one or another of the members of the Hat Creek outfit, but of course if he did that he would be immediately shot in return. Every day he thought he might go home, but he didn’t. It was easier to stay and cut up a few snakes into the cook pot than to listen to his wife complain.

So he stayed, day by day, paying no attention to what anyone said. That in itself was a luxury he wouldn’t have at home, for a disappointed woman was not easy to ignore.

from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

There was something different about her, Jake had to admit. She had a beautiful face, a beautiful body, but also a distance in her such as he had never met in a woman. Certain mountains were that way, like the Bighorns. The air around them was so clear you could ride toward them for days without seeming to get any closer. And yet, if you kept riding, you would get to the mountains. He was not sure he would ever get to Lorie. Even when she took him, there was a distance between them. And yet she would not let him leave.