Bad Dream, Good Dream

May 19, 2014

More random mental activity from my somnolent state…or is it random?

End of the World Coming:

[I have been watching Waterworld (low expectations) while I exercise, so perhaps that is the source of my apocalyptic preoccupation.  As if I need one!]

I am in a hotel or conference center.  Then end of the world is coming, although I don’t know why at all.  I am packing up a rucksack.  My wife is doing the same somewhere nearby.  I am being very thorough – lots of socks and underwear.  A whole slew of gloves, but many of them appear to be fancy leather dress gloves.  Ear muffs, earphones [?]

People around me are getting frantic.  I say, “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not surprised.”

  She Hid My Stuff:

I am in a big stadium, but it is empty.  I am down on the playing field with a young woman.  She has hidden some clothes of mine under a bench.  She looks sort of like Carly Simon.  [I saw this album cover after a chorus performance of songs from the 1970s that my wife was in yesterday.]

Finally, she takes me to the bench where I can retrieve my clothes.  A coat, sort of a velvet material, and some other things, and they have mud on them, which I point out to her.

Why?” I say.

I thought (you thought) I was fat,” she replies.

You should have said something, and I would have said that you’re beautiful.  Stay with me.

We embrace and lie down on the grass, staying there for hours as it grows dark.


Speaking of dreams…

May 15, 2014

Vincit

Constantine dreams, “With this sign, you conquer.”  At The Morgan.


la boutique obscure

May 15, 2014

I am new to Perec, a member of the French Oulipo group.  They were intent on creating literature with systems and constraints:  a premier example is Perec’s novel, La disparition (A Void), written without using the letter ‘e’. (I’m not sure about the English translation!) Personally, I’m not keen on this sort of stuff, but Italo Calvino was an enthusiastic member, so, I’ll try some of it, even though his works that play with such number/word games are, to me, his least appealing.

La boutique obscure is a journal of dreams from the early 1970s. I’ve always been drawn to surrealism, outré romanticism, and films that incorporate dream sequences, so I found it very enjoyable.  He records his dreams pretty straight; not at all the way Freud records dreams, as if they were taken from the text of a dense Victorian novel.

On and off during my life, I have recorded my own dreams.  The more you do it, the more dreams you remember it seems!  I was inspired by La boutique to start a new journal of my unwaking experience.  Here are the first two entries, with explanatory, non-dream, info in brackets.  Obviously, I am time-travelling:

Meeting with J. [a girlfriend from high school]

I am in a library, or some such public building.  I am standing at a high table, like the ones they used to have in the card catalog section, or that you find at a post office.  J comes in.  We are both middle-aged adults. [J. died of a brain tumor before she was forty.]  She is a tiny bit plump, as you might expect of a woman in her fifties who was extremely petite.  She is wearing a brown business suit, and her long blonde hair is touched with some grey.  She is rummaging in a very large, reddish  shoulder bag that she throws on the table.

She tells me, “You stole my mother’s inheritance[?]”

I am indignant, and reply loudly, “I most certainly did not!”

She continues to rummage in her bag, and then says, “Oh, I found it.  I see.”

Meeting with G. [a very wild male friend of mine from junior high school days]

We are sitting, with a table between us, sort of a card table.  We are both adults, dressed in suits.  G.’s hair is still full, and wild as usual.  He is not so thin as when we were boys.  There is half of a large Italian hero on the table between us.  It looks very good; lots of meat and vegetables on good bread.  G. is yelling at me about it, saying that it is somehow wrong that I am eating it.  He is being outrageous and purposely irrational in a way that was typical of him.


Two Arabian Tales

March 22, 2012
 

Leafing through my Modern Library selection of Burton’s Tales of the Arabian Nights, I came upon a story of two men with a dream, one a fool who thinks he’s smart, and the other just lucky, and a funny story of a fart that changed a life.

 THE RUINED MAN WHO BECAME RICH AGAIN THROUGH A DREAM

There lived once in Baghdad a wealthy man and made of money, who lost all his substance and became so destitute that he could earn his living only by hard labour. One night, he lay down to sleep, dejected and heavy hearted, and saw in a dream a Speaker who said to him, “Verily thy fortune is in Cairo; go thither and seek it.” So he set out for Cairo; but when he arrived there evening overtook him and he lay down to sleep in a mosque Presently, by decree of Allah Almighty, a band of bandits entered the mosque and made their way thence into an adjoining house; but the owners, being aroused by the noise of the thieves, awoke and cried out; whereupon the Chief of Police came to their aid with his officers. The robbers made off; but the Wali entered the mosque and, finding the man from Baghdad asleep there, laid hold of him and beat him with palm-rods so grievous a beating that he was well-nigh dead. Then they cast him into jail, where he abode three days; after which the Chief of Police sent for him and asked him, “Whence art thou?”; and he answered, “From Baghdad.” Quoth the Wali, “And what brought thee to Cairo?”; and quoth the Baghdadi, “I saw in a dream One who said to me, Thy fortune is in Cairo; go thither to it. But when I came to Cairo the fortune which he promised me proved to be the palm-rods thou so generously gavest to me.” The Wali laughed till he showed his wisdom-teeth and said, “O man of little wit, thrice have I seen in a dream one who said to me: ‘There is in Baghdad a house in such a district and of such a fashion and its courtyard is laid out garden-wise, at the lower end whereof is a jetting-fountain and under the same a great sum of money lieth buried. Go thither and take it.’ Yet I went not; but thou, of the briefness of thy wit, hast journeyed from place to place, on the faith of a dream, which was but an idle galimatias of sleep.” Then he gave him money saying, “Help thee back herewith to thine own country;”–And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say. 

When It was the Three Hundred and Fifty-second Night:

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wali gave the Baghdad man some silver, saying, “Help thee back herewith to thine own country;” and he took the money and set out upon his homewards march. Now the house the Wali had described was the man’s own house in Baghdad; so the wayfarer returned thither and, digging underneath the fountain in his garden, discovered a great treasure. And thus Allah gave him abundant fortune; and a marvellous coincidence occurred. And a story is also current of . . .

HOW ABU HASAN BRAKE WIND

 They recount that in the City Kaukabán of Al-Yaman there was a man of the Fazlí tribe who had left Badawi life, and become a townsman for many years and was a merchant of the most opulent merchants. His wife had deceased when both were young; and his friends were instant with him to marry again, ever quoting to him the words of the poet,

“Go, gossip! re-wed thee, for Prime draweth near:
A wife is an almanac–good for the year.”

So being weary of contention, Abu Hasan entered into negotiations with the old women who procure matches, and married a maid like Canopus when he hangeth over the seas of Al-Hind. He made high festival therefor, bidding to the wedding banquet kith and kin, Olema and Fakirs; friends and foes and all his acquaintances of that countryside. The whole house was thrown open to feasting: there were rices of five several colours, and sherbets of as many more; and kids stuffed with walnuts and almonds and pistachios and a camel colt roasted whole. So they ate and drank and made mirth and merriment; and the bride was displayed in her seven dresses and one more, to the women, who could not take their eyes off her. At last, the bridegroom was summoned to the chamber where she sat enthroned; and he rose slowly and with dignity from his divan; but in so doing, for that he was over full of meat and drink, lo and behold! he let fly a fart, great and terrible. Thereupon each guest turned to his neighbour and talked aloud and made as though he had heard nothing, fearing for his life. But a consuming fire was lit in Abu Hasan’s heart; so he pretended a call of nature; and, in lieu of seeking the bride chamber, he went down to the house court and saddled his mare and rode off, weeping bitterly, through the shadow of the night. In time he reached Láhej where he found a ship ready to sail for India; so he shipped on board and made Calicut of Malabar. Here he met with many Arabs, especially Hazramís, who recommended him to the King; and this King (who was a Kafir) trusted him and advanced him to the captainship of his body guard. He remained ten years in all solace and delight of life; at the end of which time he was seized with home sickness; and the longing to behold his native land was that of a lover pining for his beloved; and he came near to die of yearning desire. But his appointed day had not dawned; so, after taking the first bath of health, he left the King without leave, and in due course landed at Makallá of Hazramaut. Here he donned the rags of a religious; and, keeping his name and case secret, fared for Kaukaban afoot; enduring a thousand hardships of hunger, thirst and fatigue; and braving a thousand dangers from the lion, the snake and the Ghul. But when he drew near his old home, he looked down upon it from the hills with brimming eyes, and said in himself, “Haply they might know thee; so I will wander about the outskirts, and hearken to the folk. Allah grant that my case be not remembered by them!” He listened carefully for seven nights and seven days, till it so chanced that, as he was sitting at the door of a hut, he heard the voice of a young girl saying, “O my mother, tell me the day when I was born; for such an one of my companions is about to take an omenfor me.” And the mother answered, “Thou was born, O my daughter, on the very night when Abu Hasan farted.” Now the listener no sooner heard these words than he rose up from the bench, and fled away saying to himself,”Verily thy fart hath become a date, which shall last for ever and ever; even as the poet said,’

‘As long as palms shall shift the flower;
 As long as palms shall sift the flour.’

And he ceased not travelling and voyaging and returned to India; and there abode in self exile till he died; and the mercy of Allah be upon him! And they tell another story of . . .


Old Favorite

October 3, 2011

I saw An Andalusian Dog when I was sixteen, in a public library of all places.  I wonder if any librarian would dare screen it today!  Now I can see it on Netflix whenever I want to, and I watched it last night.  A wonderful thing about this 1929 milestone of cinema and surrealism is that it simply is as it appears – weird.  Luis Bunuel used to make jokes about the deep interpretations that critics would apply to his montages and visual non sequitursI just liked how it looked, he would say.

Check out this comic by Max, Bardin, The Superrealist for a wild ride inspired in part by Dali, Bunuel, and their Andalusian Dog.


Dalí and Me

September 1, 2011

When I was in high school, I loved Salvador Dalí.  I knew all his paintings, read his biography, his novel, and his autobiography (The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.)  I vividly recall the first time I saw one of his pictures:  it was in fourth grade, and I opened a book that had his premonition of the civil war.  I thought it was the weirdest, most grotesque thing I had ever seen.

He did a lot of junk, but at his best, he was very good.  I always wished I could have attended the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme and seen Rainy Taxi, with the bedraggled mannequin in the back seat, water cascading through the roof, and snails crawling over her limbs.  Seeing the car in the lobby of the Figueras Theatro Salvador Dalí was a thrill.  I still get a kick out of much of his work.  There’s no surrealist like him.  The ancient church across the street from the theater is a beautiful complement to his craziness, and one he surely appreciated.


It was I who killed the official’s old widow and her sister Lizaveta with an axe…

July 28, 2011

I read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment when I was in the ninth grade, and I loved it.  Heaven knows what I understood of it.  Generations later, I have tried to read again all those novels that I devoured then – Karamazov, Demons, Idiots – and I could get nowhere.  I found Dostoyevsky’s style repellant and impenetrable, with the exception of Notes from Underground, which has always been a favorite.  Maybe it was the translation.

I am more than half through the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of this novel, and I am amazed at the novelty of the book, its outrageous inventiveness.  The phrase I find myself coming back to is avant garde.  It seems so, even now, after 140 years – fresh, challenging, bizarre, and direct.  Compared to this, Dostoyevksy’s contemporary ‘realists’ such as Dickens (whom he loved), Turgenev (whom he loathed) and Flaubert (I don’t know what opinions of each other they entertained, but Flaubert and Turgenev were fast friends) seem almost pedestrian.  The point of view shifts, the mood varies wildly, the characters often seem to speak to the reader directly, and there is no sense of a cool, omniscient consciousness directing the action.  More like real life?

The novel observes a lot of the conventions of 19th century realism:  the place and person names obscured with a hyphen as if to protect the identities of the real people; the fully realized portraits of the city, its classes, and the grit of everyday life – but it seems profoundly stagey, literally as if a play, not a novel, which makes it seem unrealistic at the same time.  Characters enter, declaim, moan, howl, rave, and exit.  So much of the action takes place in crowded rooms.  People are forever making decisions, talking, arguing, and falling into reverie on stairs, going up and going down.

Unusual also is the recounting of dreams:  they are utterly credible, in a way that I associate with writing of the 20th century only.  Earlier writers tend towards romantic notions of what the dormant mind produces – Raskolnikov’s are completely believable, especially the first in which he imagines following a man, a man who knows his crime, a man who stops, turns, and waves to him from across the street, saying nothing.

Finally, Dostoyevsky gets the jump on all the existentialist notions that would become trite in generations to come.  Listen to this deliciously funny, dark, exchange as Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov discuss the afterlife and eternity:

“We keep imagining eternity as an idea that cannot be grasped, something vast, vast!  But why must it be vast?  Instead of all that, imagine suddenly that there will be one little room there, something like a village bathhouse, covered with soot, with spiders in all the corners, and that’s the whole of eternity.  I sometimes fancy something of the sort.”

“But surely, surely you can imagine something more just and comforting than that!” Raskolnikov cried out with painful feeling.

“More just?  Who knows, perhaps that is just- and, you know, if I had my way, it’s certainly how I would do it!”  Svidrigailov answered, smiling vaguely.

How many episodes of the Twilight Zone, how many adolescent rock lyrics, what pile of scripts and plays start with notions like this?

With the climate of political extremism being what it is these days, I think I just might get myself a copy of The Demons next.


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