Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I had a dream - Michelle Lovric

In the cold light of dawn, there’s nothing my husband dreads more than the words, ‘Darling, I had a dream …’

My subconscious has always enacted dreadful deeds in the dead of night. And my almost blameless spouse has been the villain of a great many of them. He used to protest his innocence, but now he knows better. Every morning after, he apologises abjectly for whatever he (didn’t) do in my dream, makes tea and comforts me.

But secretly, I know, he shares William Dean Howells’ opinion of the matter:
The habit husbands and wives have of making each other listen to their dreams is especially cruel. They have each other quite helpless, and for this reason they should all the more carefully guard themselves from abusing their advantage. Parents should not afflict their offspring with the rehearsal of their mental maunderings in sleep, and children should learn that one of the first duties a child owes its parents is to spare them the anguish of hearing what it has dreamed about overnight …

Howells also documents the way the dreamer often turns on the dreamt-about, blaming them for dreamt-up sins. Unhelpfully, he adds, The only thing that I can think to do about it is to urge people to keep out of other people’s dreams by every means in their power.

‘But I didn’t ask to be in your dreams,’ protests my husband.

My latest novel for children, The Mourning Emporium, was published on October 28th. This means that my husband gets a break, because in the weeks around publication, my dreams change. All paranoia focuses on the act of publication and its sister-acts of publicity, performance and parties.

Here’s a selection of what my subconscious been up to in the small hours the last few weeks:

I am in a locked car, improbably parked on a jetty near our home in Venice. I’m tied up. The car teeters on the edge of the jetty and then drops into the dark green depths. A person I don’t know stands on the jetty, watching impassively.

I’m on a strobe-lit stage, wearing only a slightly grubby spotted sheet. The dancing mistress hisses from the wings, ‘DO YOUR BUTTERFLY DANCE!’ I stumble around like a blowfly who’s just been sprayed with DDT. I fall off the stage, crushing to powder a lady who has the shape and texture of a vast meringue. It turns out she was the one VIP I was supposed to impress.

I am at a party. I’m comprehensively snubbed by someone I am particularly happy to see – someone to whom I would have given custody of my professional happiness or with whom I would have shared my last Bendicks Bittermint. People turn away from my naked grief. I go to the kitchen and start washing dishes.

I am flattered into judging a literary competition. It will be good for my career, I’m assured. The UPS boat arrives, and a huge box is unloaded for me. It is as big as I am. These are the competition entries. I have two hours to read them all. Then the UPS man stagger onto the jetty with another box. And another. The whole boat is full of entries. I stare at the hopes and dreams of other writers and know that I am about to betray all of them.

The bitter aftertaste of bad dreams like these can linger till sunset. They leave the dreamer drained and feeling guilty. A really bad dream can perpetuate the sense of inadequacy it evokes by rendering the dreamer inadequate for the tasks of the day.

In Japanese mythology there’s a creature called a Baku, who looks something like a tapir crossed with a lion and elephant. It feeds on the bad dreams of humanity. I imagine it rather corpulent. But it can dine on dreams only if they are offered up voluntarily. The dreamer must cry, ‘Devour, O Baku’ three times before he or she may be freed from his hallucinatory tortures.

Does anyone else have any titbits for the Japanese tapir god?

Does anyone else have special nightmares on publication street?

Michelle Lovric’s website
William Dean Howells’ full essay on dreams can be found in Impressions and Experiences, 1896.

Block print of Baku by Katsushika Hokusai


catdownunder said...

Oh yes, plenty of titbits - I will not inform the rest of you in case they are infectious.

Charlie Butler said...

The person who masquerades as me in other people's dreams seems to be a real let-down: shifty, unreliable, and disappointing in every way. I like to think that it is like my photographic negative in terms of character and morals, but I get some funny looks from dreamers of a morning.

Miriam Halahmy said...

I haven't got to publication date and I'm already full of fears, sometimes in dreams, all of them far too revealing to mention online. Lovely post Michelle - in sympathies.

Nicola Morgan said...

I always have what I call exposure dreams for the few weeks before publication. In them I am usually in a public place, such as on a stage, not sufficiently clothed... Or I have to go to the loo in a cubicle with a glass door.

Great post!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

My husband too has resigned himself to being cast as the 'Dasher of Dreams' and other villianous roles. I love the sad eyes of the Baku.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Dreams sound like a little light relief. ;)
You should both have been teachers - we get to suicide levels when we start the one-kid-in-my-class recounts: this child in my class did the *****s thing today... wrote the best... said the ******
"You know... Jessica? I told you about her last week!"

Leslie Wilson said...

I love the animal!! The literary competition dream sounds like a variant of the exam/Christmas dream. You know, doing an exam and you haven't read any of the set books, or it's Christmas, and you've got nothing ready and your parents are coming - oddly enough, I only ever have that dream in the middle of summer!

screamish said...

for some reason i landed on this post mid text. for a minute I believed that you really HAD been at a party and that precious person had snubbed you...I scrolled up to learn that you'd sunk in a car in Venice.

oh man, freaked out completely.