Everyday Realism

César Aira, Argentinian Writer Par Excellence

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Put on your tuxedo and cummerbund? Sit in bed lolling over a tray of sumptuous breakfast delicacies? Write the Great American Novel? No, no, no. What you do is stagger to the bathroom and empty your bladder. That before anything else—unless you want an untoward accident to put a damper on your day. I realize it would be boring to show these simple rituals in a movie, in which every minute costs a small fortune. But even in fiction, where words are cheap, there is no acknowledgment of a simple biological need.

None to speak of, anyway, until I saw the following line in César Aira’s Ema the Captive:

A sleepy soldier had come out onto the veranda of his house and stopped there, right on the edge, to pee, swaying dangerously.

Hallelujah! This line was in all probability written by a human, and not an android.

Another example of a simple reality not observed, especially in films, is that the hero always finds a parking place directly in front of his destination. In The Big Sleep, Bogart always finds the ideal parking space without even trying. I guess there weren’t that many people around in the 1940s.

Finally, with some rare exceptions, guns almost never misfire. If you look at Wikipedia’s entry on Firearm Malfunction, you will find twelve things that can happen to prevent your gun from shooting. In the real world, not everyone that has firearms is careful with them, or does everything needed to guarantee 100% functionality. Yet one rarely sees a misfire of any sort.

I guess most movies are fantasies, as our parents told us.