“The Real Thing,” by Henry James
According to Wikipedia, this was “first syndicated by S. S. McClure in multiple American newspapers” and then appeared in Black and White, which I assume is long since defunct, on April 16, 1892; it was then collected in The Real Thing and Other Tales (1893, McMillan and Co., on Project Gutenberg); also recorded for LibriVox
A charming, if grim, parable about reality’s relationship with “realistic” art. It reminds me of that passage in Dorian Gray in which the gifted young actress loses her ability to play Juliet the moment she falls in love for real. I wonder, though, if this clever reversal of expectations reflects any real truth. Perhaps it is the author’s way of cautioning us against his own work; perhaps he senses that he’s in danger of convincing his readership too easily of the reality of his depictions, of lulling us into complacency; perhaps, like the post-modernists, he wants to remind us, however much more subtly, that we’re reading a story.
Side note: It’s amazing that I don’t already have an “Oscar Wilde” tag. What’s the matter with me?