Too often we bring to literature the bias for “realism” we were normally brought up with, and consequently we find a work like The Recognitions too fanciful, obscure, and riddling; but is reality always clear and unambiguous? is reality simple and not complex? does it unfold like the pages of a newspaper, or is the unfolding more like that of a road map—difficult to get spread out, difficult to read, difficult to redo? and is everything remembered precisely, and nothing repeated, and are people we know inexplicably lost from sight for long periods, only to pop up when we least expect them? Of course; the traditional realist’s well-scrubbed world where motives are known and actions are unambiguous, where you can believe what you are told and where the paths of good and evil are as clearly marked as highways, that world is as contrived as a can opener; for all their frequent brilliance, and all the fondness we have for these artificial figures, their clever conversations and fancy parties, the plots they circle in like carousel’d horses, to call them and the world they decorate “real” is to embrace a beloved illusion. The pages of The Recognitions are more nearly the real right thing than any of Zola’s or Balzac’s.