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Not for me the Lady Constable of the Seagirt Lands, majestic in cramoisy; nor her dragon-master with a tasteful wisp of leather obscuring his massive manhood. Fantasy for me involves seeing the everyday in a new light.

Many years ago, in fact some time before I could read more than a couple of sentences without reaching for the dictionary, a family friend gave me a collection of short stories by Robert Escarpit: Le fabricant des nuages, or The man who made clouds.

After the nine stories, he includes an essay on fantasy. I may or may not get round to translating the whole essay; in the meantime, here's a paragraph for you to consider.

I'm tempted to say that humour is a sort of fantasy or that fantasy is a sort of humour. There is a strong family likeness. In fact, they are both of them born of anxiety and the desire to live. Humour takes after his father, fantasy after her mother.

So what do I read, you ask suspiciously, to justify this condescending tone towards a genre many just get on with enjoying? Well, here's a few books I've enjoyed recently: I'd say that all of them take that small step sideways and consider the impossible as thoughtfully as the everyday.

These were old favourites I was re-reading: new to me is Hilary Mantel's Fludd, a book I could wish I had written. Comparisons, we know, are odious: but I'll risk suggesting that her faultless style reminds me both of Peter Tinniswood and of Flann O'Brien. Words are chosen with the loving precision that makes good dry-stone walls, and incidents occur with the serene logic of a dream.