I think I may have begun to disappear up my own arse with that last posting. I plan to return to the topic, but only when I have time to address it in more depth and with more coherence.
In the meantime, I've been reading Jose Saramago's All the Names and enjoying it immensely. It is a chronicle of a clerk in the Central Registry, charged with keeping track of files on the living and the dead. One particular quote stood out for me in the early pages:
"The state of neglect grew, dereliction prospered, uncertainty multiplied, so much so that one day...a researcher became lost in the labyrinthine catacombs of the archive of the dead, having come to the Central Registry in order to carry out some genealogical research he had been commissioned to undertake. He was discovered, almost miraculously, after a week, starving, thirsty, exhausted, delirious, having survived thanks to the desperate measures of ingesting enormous quantities of old documents which neither lingered in the stomach nor nourished, since they melted in the mouth without requiring any chewing."
I don't know if the book becomes fantastical later in the sense of events occurring that could not occur in the real world, but if not, I'd still consider the book fantasy on the level of metaphor for descriptions like that.