Monday, August 21, 2006

Three dreams

1) I dreamed that one of the editors at my workplace had arranged for some prominent authors to give lectures on their craft to the entire office. First up were Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad. They took turns speaking, and they actually had fairly interesting things to say about each other’s work. Hemingway was surprisingly self-effacing, and Conrad was exactly as I expected: formal, precise, and thoroughly serious.

It was only after I’d returned to my office following the lecture that I remembered that both Hemingway and Conrad were long dead. “Of course!” I thought. “Those must have been professional impersonators!”

I ran for the front desk, hoping to catch them before they left. Conrad was gone by the time I got there, but Hemingway was just stepping into the elevator. “Wait!” I shouted. “Who do you do when you’re not doing Hemingway?”

Hemingway turned. Then, smiling, he ripped off his mask, held it aloft, and jauntily shouted, “Yourcenar!”

2) I dreamed that I was reading—and greatly enjoying—Anthony Powell’s biography of Robert Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). It was only after I woke up that I remembered that Powell never wrote a biography of Burton; that was Nick Jenkins, the narrator of Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, who serves as Powell’s stand-in.

Realizing that I would never get to read the book I’d been enjoying so much in my dream was substantially disappointing and not a good way to start the day.

3) This one is Stacey’s dream. Friday morning, before we left to visit my parents for the weekend, she told me, “Last night, I dreamed that you were bringing fifty books on this trip.”

From Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621)
Against fearful and troublesome dreams, nightmare and such inconveniences, wherewith melancholy men are molested, the best remedy is to eat a light supper, and of such meats as are easy of digestion; no Hare, Venison, Beef, &c. not to lie on his back, not to meditate or think in the day time of any terrible objects, or especially talk of them before he goes to bed. For, as he said in Lucian after such conference, I seem to dream of Hecate, I can think of nothing buy Hobgoblins; and, as Tully notes, for the most part our speeches in the day time cause our phantasy to work upon the like in our sleep, which Ennius writes of Homer: as a dog dreams of an hare, so do men dream on such subjects they thought on last.

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