An All-Encompassing Definition of Reality: The Conclusion to Narrative Madness

The Non-Existence of Nonfiction

narrative-madness-book-ronald-b-richardsonIn my book Narrative Madness, edited by Katie Fox, I showed that nonfiction is an impossibility since every text and utterance requires the invention of a fictional speaker who is never the whole person; it filters meaning through the speaker’s or writer’s name, uses narrative language which influences perception and behavior, relies on man-made symbolic code, necessitates the selection of subjectively interpreted facts while overlooking vast amounts of information, organizes information in artificial ways, redirects the future through a present discussion of the past,  acts upon world, community and self rather than merely reporting on them, involves imperfect mindreading and empathy games, utilizes preexisting forms and genres which affect content and meaning, channels voices of predecessors who have previously used the language and textual resources, constructs a reader or listener, and requires recreation and performance by the actual reader or listener.

It is all fiction. All of it.

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Liberate Yourself with Meta-Awareness, But Don’t Let It Kill the Romance

Becoming a reader and critic of his own story leads Don Quixote eventually to sanity. Toward the end of the second volume, he slips out of his chivalric role more and more often, even doubting his most fabulous adventure: the Cave of Montesino. When an “enchanted boat” capsizes and gets pulverized in a mill, the bedraggled knight, dripping on the bank, sputters, “Yo no puedo más” (Cervantes Saavedra 752) (“I can’t take it anymore”), betraying a defeatist attitude for the first time. His increased meta-awareness causes our heroic knight to lose faith in his chivalric role, drop the pretense, and return, alas, to sanity.

Don Quixote Dying

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The Constructed Reader

Every text constructs a reader for itself. (You, my friend!) Whenever writers write, it is with the assumption that they are addressing others who do not know what they are explaining. Each time a narrator “recounts facts which he knows perfectly well,” writes Barthes, we find “a sign of the reading act, for there would not be much sense in the narrator giving himself information” (“An Introduction” 260).

Let’s test this assertion by considering a couple of potential exceptions. How about a note to self, like “Don’t forget to call Dad on Father’s Day”? Wouldn’t that be a “narrator giving himself information”? Actually, I would be writing to a future me who may have forgotten, therefore, a constructed reader who does not know.

T310 PL 52-53

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Don Quixote: The Origin of Modern Realism and Metafiction

Tilting at WindmillsAdapting genres, Cervantes created two new ones: realism and metafiction, says Robert Alter in Partial Magic (1979). The “juxtaposition of high-flown literary fantasies with grubby actuality” established realism, while the “zestfully ostentatious manipulation” of the artifice of literary creation set precedent for “all the self-conscious novelists to come” (Alter 3 – 4). Realism and metafiction were born on the same day and became, almost immediately, rivals. Metafiction is the elder brother, however, since realism was a metafictional technique Cervantes created to parody the conventions of romance. Most fiction since Cervantes, says Alter, can be classified under one of these two headings.

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Don Quixote: A Compendium of Genres, a Book of Books


Don Quixote may be the first modern novel, but Cervantes did not pull it out of the air like a magician’s bouquet. The Spanish bard borrowed language, story, form and genre, giving them his own indelible stamp. The stories he borrowed became his own.

Obviously, the principal genre Cervantes plundered was chivalric romance. Romances are the authors of Don Quixote’s madness, they serve as guidebooks for his speech and behavior, and they are the templates for the novel. The book follows the typical structure, story line, chronotopes and many conventions, but the heroic tale becomes a parody as it passes through the hands of multiple authors, some realistic and some rhetorical.

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Collective Memory: The Content and Form of Your Memories are Influenced by Culture

collective-memorySince we humans construct our narratives and memories socially, we could ask, “Do we have a collective memory?” Frederic Bartlett, often called the first experimental psychologist, criticized the concept, since “collective memory” seems to suggest a group brain. Societies don’t have brains. We must understand group memory, then, as distributed in the minds of individuals, in discourse, and in symbolic records. “Collective memory” is just a metaphor and taking it too literally is sign of narrative madness.

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The Official review of “Narrative Madness” by Ronald B. Richardson, editor Katie Fox

[Following is the official review of "Narrative Madness" by Ronald B. Richardson, editor Katie Fox.]

Narrative Madness is a non-fiction book that uses Don Quixote as its primary literary device in explaining how people in general construct a narrative in everyday life. Richardson looks at a variety of different factors to explain what causes our “madness” and how everyone suffers from the same ailment. He examines our habits in everyday life and how our use of different languages not only shapes our minds but defines our world. What is in a name? How does that affect how we view objects? Can narratives be defined and constrained or are they reconstructed based on who is issuing the narrative? What responsibilities are readers given by the authors when they decipher the story? All of these questions are examined in this book and explained in much detail to try and further understanding.

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The Myth of Myths: Ronald B. Richardson Reads at You’re Going to Die Literary Event

They were not like this before; the story has brought them together.

At the You’re Going to Die literary and music event, I read parts of “The Myth of Myths: The Development of Human Culture through Mythmaking,” which is an extract of my book Narrative Madness, available at or Amazon. This piece was influenced Jean Luc Nancy’s essay  “Myth Interrupted” from his book The Inoperative Community.

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The Representation of Amusement Parks in Amusement Parks: Meta-Attractions at Disney Parks

Disney Parks have a couple of meta-attractions, attractions that include representations of miniature amusement parks. Visitors can see how Disney, the most famous of amusement parks, represents its own business. I am going to look at two examples, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, which ironically warns the visitor against amusement parks, and It’s a Small World, which presents the amusement park as a unifying symbol of humanity.

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The Plagiarized Hero: The Hero with a Thousand Borrowed Faces


Language and storytelling arose as a means of creating and maintaining social ties. Tribes then spread across the planet, trading materials, goods, technology, information and stories, so it should not come as a surprise that our narratives are similar worldwide. As humans, we make up stories habitually in order to understand the universe, ourselves and others, but we can only do so within established narrative language (as we have seen) and (this is the new part) preexisting forms and genres.

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