A Bore and Her Dreams

June 28, 2008

In the movie version of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, editor and philanderer turned paralytic memoirist, Jean Do-Bauby snarks that “only boring men talk about their dreams.”

Readers, do you think this is true?

As a counter-weight, consider Alain Leroy, a suicidal novelist responding to his impeccably mannered competition in Louis Malle’s The Fire Within. The stuffy suitor declares “I do not like to talk about myself.” To Which Leroy crisply rebuts “Then you must not like talking.”

I ask because, like many people, I have a dream life. I document my dreams regularly and read quite a bit about dream interpretation and manipulation. Although as a general rule I am not a Kerouac fan, I have been thinking for some time about taking a cue from his Book of Dreams and compiling selections from some 10 years worth of hazily and fragmentarily documented dreams. Bauby’s remark severely undercut my initial inclination that this might be at all interesting to read and it’s haunted me all week, even resounding with the diagnosis of the egotist (as supplied by my dear friend, Avi): “The definition of a bore – someone who is more interested in himself than he is in me.”

And yet, personally, I’m happier and more at home in Proust’s sprawling dreamscape that is the epic,A la Recherché du Temps Perdue than perhaps any place on earth. Though contemporaneous with the Dadaist and Surrealist dream-work of his fellow Parisians, Proust’s dream-world is utterly different. It is not a form of experimentation, which treats the dream qua generative process, but rather a rendering of memory into form, via oneiric reminiscence. Put another way, how to locate (and develop) the aesthetic locus of dream-writing?

An example from the fragments which would populate such a collection (this one from Thursday night):

A___’s mother, whom I’ve never met until now, is not what I expected. She’s short and looks African-American instead of Burmese. Surprisingly, she smokes cigarettes. Her apartment has the unique ability to exist simultaneously in the east village (where she once lived) and in queens where she now resides. Here, Queens becomes more than Queens, but an indefinite, suburban expanse extending up the eastern Coast of New York state. The kitchen walls are painted two kinds of light blue that meet at a border just near an immense, white, antique sink. At the table I sit with A_____ as he works on his laptop computer. He’s perusing Craigslist– in Africa. He shows me a map without showing me a map in which I see the eastern coast of Africa and the Eastern coast of the United States hovering, super-imposed over one another and melted into a singular form, whose features manage to blend yet remain distinct. The idea he explains is to buy used car in the Congo (cum Queens) and drive it down, almost to the cape on the southern tip of the continent. My response as I contemplated this journey “did it really take us that long to get here from Manhattan?”

My first thought upon waking is that I do not actually know where the Congo is. Subsequent fact-checking revealed my dream to be woefully, geographically incorrect.


One Response to “A Bore and Her Dreams”

  1. marian said

    hey i think that julie doucet’s “my most secret desire” is a great response to this post. i’m a little sauced right now, so i might not be totally coherent. but, i find most of this whole volume interesting and hey, it’s all her dreams. i wonder if they’re perhaps so interesting to me because the medium allows for a visual representation without as much of that explanation that can get weighty in “literature?”??? (As, for example, you might have to specify– “it was like sunday morning cartoon” rather than just illustrating something entirely in that style) Or, in her case, “i had a baby, but it wasn’t a baby, it was a cat”– simply represented by her giving birth to, clearly, a cat. hmm.

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