Friday, December 26, 2008

I don't know why dreams are more vivid in the daytime.

A most excellent Christmas and Boxing Day, and among the excellent things was the chance to take a nap this afternoon -- a nap during which I had a strange and powerful dream about living in a dilapidated house that backed onto a river, with underwater caves that served as the basement of the house.

In the dream an old friend showed up and sat in on a family conference, in which I talked about my hopes and plans for restoring the house, and I woke up feeling unusually cheerful and pleased.

The underlying meanings of this dream are pretty obvious, and not especially interesting to me; what I am interested in is the fact that I woke up remembering these details so clearly, when I hardly ever remember the dreams I have overnight.

I could look this up -- the reasons probably have to do with how we roll through the sleep cycles at night -- but I've given myself the day off, and therefore am looking nothing up today.

Oh, except for Bill Pullman. I fell asleep this afternoon to a screening of The Serpent and the Rainbow (so much worse a movie than I remember it being), and woke up needing to know where he is now. Next stop, IMDb.

What I Read This Week

This week's list is about half-and-half reading and audiobooks, since I did a lot of driving. I also abandoned The Gathering by Anne Enright, last year's Man Booker winner; I rarely mention books I put down, but felt so enraged and appalled by this heap of whiny, hateful, self-indulgent tripe that I was seriously tempted to throw it into the Beas' fireplace, and did not only because it belongs to the Gardiner Public Library. I warn you about it here as a public service. No need to thank me.

Lillian Hellman, AN UNFINISHED WOMAN. Among my birthday presents was a new copy of Herman Wouk's Youngblood Hawke, one of my all-time favorite novels; it is a panoramic epic about publishing in the mid-20th century, including scenes set in Hollywood and before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Realizing I knew less than I should about the facts of this period, I picked up this first of Hellman's memoirs. Mary McCarthy famously said, "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the,'" and some of this memoir is obviously self-serving. Whether or not the facts are precisely accurate, the woman herself comes through in a way that is equally admirable and alarming; along the way she ditches a husband, has at least one abortion and one miscarriage, and works with titans of American theater on historic productions, but we hear almost nothing about any of those things. She sounds weirdly disengaged from much of her life, and I need to read a biography now to get some sense of why.

P. G. Wodehouse, LAUGHING GAS. A magical spoof of Hollywood in the '30s; the Earl of Havershot goes to Los Angeles to try to save his wastrel cousin from a misalliance, and winds up swapping bodies with a child star. Either Kevin Wignall or my cousin Kathleen recommended this to me, and either or both of them said they couldn't understand why it hadn't been made into a movie. I don't understand it, either.

Bill Bryson, SHAKESPEARE: THE WORLD AS STAGE. A short biography that spends most of its time detailing what we don't know about Shakespeare, and why we don't know it. Instead, Bryson puts this mysterious figure into the context of his time, and discusses popular and exotic theories about where he was, when, and why. He is particularly good on the subject of all the various people others have claimed wrote Shakespeare's work, dismissing them with sharp humor.

Michael Connelly, THE BRASS VERDICT. I'm embarrassed that I didn't get around to this book until the last week of the year. It's a sequel to The Lincoln Lawyer, and one of Connelly's best. Criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller, still recovering from the events of the last book, inherits the caseload of a murdered colleague, including a high-profile murder trial. Connelly's other series character, Harry Bosch, is the homicide detective in search of the lawyer's murderer, and Connelly weaves his characters together seamlessly.


Karen Olson said...

Just finished The Brass Verdict last night. Brilliant. Connelly at his very best. Now onto Stewart O'Nan's new book Songs for the Missing.

Kevin Wignall said...

It wasn't me who recommended the Wodehouse (I told you about "Hot Water" which REALLY should be a movie). But I'll check it out now.

As for dreams. Simple really - because a daytime nap is less likely to end in a hurry, you have the chance to remember the details. REM sleep is the shallowest part of the cycle which is why you often seem to be dreaming when you wake. As it happens, I wake at the end of almost every REM cycle during the night and remember a lot of my dreams as a result. The alarm clock is the enemy of dreamers, in more senses than one.