Fantasy gets a bad rap.
It's what I read in seventh grade, for starters, and seldom does anything one did in seventh grade bear scrutiny.
Then there are the novels themselves, great jellied slabs of book lousy, like fruitcake, with preservative spirit. In fruitcake, alcohol preserves the fruit; in fantasy, it's our deepest longings that are captured, whole and unmacerated, within the suspension of other worlds.
We want to be special, important, an integral, even necessary part of a band of brothers- and in fantasy, unless we manage to take a sword to the throat, we are.
It's been a while since I've done fantasy. After adolescence, naked longing smacks of gaucherie. Desperation is only fashionable in disguise, and so we turn, most of us, to the twinned, half-hearted embraces of literary fiction and life.
But lately, I've come back to fantasy. Not the section in the library, though that has its place, but the whole untrammeled wail of the word, its method of plunging offtrack. Fantasizing, by definition, means overstepping. You take something, anything, from life. You walk to the end of it and then, as if it were a plank, you step off.
Tomorrow afternoon, 60 miles down the road, I'm leading a workshop on fantasias. The musical kind, fantasias and fantazias and fantasies and fantazies in which one composer or another starts with a cell of melody and allows it to divide and multiply. For y'all on the blog, here's one of my favorites, a bang-up rendition by Jordi Savall's ensemble of Henry Purcell's Fantasia Upon One Note.
If you listen, you'll hear that one note spinning and spinning, that single clod of earth which anchors every castle in the air.