The Dream (Le Reve) by Zola

Le Reve, by Emile Zola

“The vision that had emerged from the invisible was returning to the invisible. It was no more an appearance that was fading away, having created an illusion. All is but a dream. And, at the peak of happiness, Angélique had vanished, in the faint breath of a kiss.”
― Émile Zola, The Dream

Ok, for awhile now I’ve been working my way through Zola’s Rougon-Marquat 20 novel series of French life in the Second Empire – Reading them not in the order that they were written, but in the recommended reading order.

Next is Le Rêve (The Dream). It is a complete departure from the other books in the Rougon-Marquat series. Instead of complex, realistic stories – it is the simple, yet fantastic, romantic tale of an orphan girl Angélique, that falls in love with a wealthy nobleman. She is a descendant of the Rougon family – providing the tenuous connection with the rest of the books. Angélique does suffer from the mental instability of her kin, which provides a window into her obsession with the saints and the idea of a perfect romance.

I have to admit, though, I didn’t like the book very much. It starts out with a lot of promise, the young girl abandoned in the snow near a great cathedral in rural France – it’s a powerful image. But the story spends too many words in cataloging a parade of saints and the stories of The Golden Legend. It become tedious and not very interesting to a modern reader.

In doing research about the book, I did find something I really liked. There are a series of amazing illustrations for the novel by Carlos Schwabe. I was not familiar with the artist and looking around the web there are some really interesting stuff he’s done. I especially like the drawings he did for Baudelaire’s book of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal. Have to look into these some more.

Illustration for Zola’s Le Reve, by Carlos Schwabe

 

 

Carlos Schwabe, Spleen et Idéal (1896)
from Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal

Carlos Schwabe, from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal

 

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Can Never Be Undreamed

“That which is dreamed can never be lost, can never be undreamed.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Wake

Buddhist Center of Dallas

Today, after a lot of hard work doing nothing at all useful, I felt the need for a nap.

I dreamed of a house, one that is very familiar to me. It is a classic old wooden Victorian – getting long in the tooth. Like thousands and thousands throughout the center of the continent, the place I am so familiar.

It is larger than most, four stories including a dormered top floor with ceiling slanted to match the steep snow-shedding roof. There is an apartment addition over the double garage, reachable from the second floor. The main floor is completely encircled by a porch, with an old metal glider facing the road. There is an old-fashioned sleeping porch extending off the back portion of the second floor – a refuge from the hot summers, a peaceful relic from before air conditioning.

Walking the halls, I realized that I knew every square inch of this large-rambling house and remember all the repairs and improvements done over the decades. I even remembered how it used to be – I remember standing over an opening that led down to the floor furnace, the crisp white winter smell, the warm air convectioning up, the blue gas flame hissing away far below, how my feet felt on the hot metal grating.

Of course, once I ended my nap, stood up and entered the wasted day fully I realized that the house that I knew in such detail and remembered for so long does not exist. Has never existed. Could not even possibly exist.

Yet it feels more real than my actual home – or any dwelling I have lived in before.

The Only Right Thing to Do

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Oblique Strategy: A line has two sides

I rarely remember my dreams. When I am able to grasp the wispy end of something as I’m waking up it is always some form of daily frustration, like my car won’t start or my key won’t fit. I guess that’s why I can’t remember my dreams – they are simply more boring versions of my daily life.

This morning, though, as I crawled out of bed, I remembered. I was hitchhiking through Japan with two other people, a young couple. Why we were three was hazy, though there seemed an adequate explanation somewhere. At the time of the dream we were wading through a rice paddy, each clutching a train ticket. The tickets were paper and plastic, white and bright yellow, and valuable.

Ahead, rising out of the rice, was a track on a levee and a simple station. The biggest passenger train in the world was stopped there, vibrating and smoking. As we approached, it blew its whistle and slowly pulled off, just as we arrived. I was frustrated at the fact we had missed the train, and clutched at my ticket in frustration.

A minute later, we realized that this massive transportation system was too large for one single train, and a second, identical one came huffing into the station. Suddenly elated, I had my ticket stamped and boarded the nearest car. My two companions followed close behind me.

The rest of the dream consisted of me exploring the various cars up and down the line. They were laid out in a linear cornucopia of delights, each car more opulent and fascinating than the one before.

My alarm went off – time to get up and go to work. I hit snooze to see if I could drop off again and visit a car or two more, but the train had sped off to somewhere unknown.

The Opium Den of Remembrance

“In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again.”
― Anaïs Nin

H&K Pump Air Compressors, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

I had a dream last night – I rarely remember my dreams but this one I did, I still do.

There is nothing more boring than reading about someone else’s dreams. Sorry.

This was a nightmare, after all. Not a monster, murderer, or painful death kind of nightmare – I don’t have those. It was a nightmare of fighting the bureaucracy – which is what really scares me.

I graduated from college… next year it will have been forty years.

Just reading that sentence gives me the willies.

But I still have nightmares about final exams, or ones like last night’s where I go back to take some more classes. I was old, my present age – everyone else was young… well, college student age. I had a room in the dorm, and somehow, I still had a key from the old days and it worked. I had to park my car (the car I presently have) in some sort of inconvenient, dangerous, and illegal spot – half in and out of the common room at the dorm. I hauled my stuff up to my room (which was very nice, by the way) and stashed it.

Somehow, this was my old school, my old dorm, my key fit – but everything was completely different. It was better – the dorm was a tower, computers and screens were everywhere, it was glassed-in, full of light, the people were all happy and attractive. I didn’t fit in – makes no real sense – but perfect dream sense.

But then was the nightmare – I never received my schedule, official key, or, most importantly, my ID Badge. I waited in line at the front desk. In my dream I listened to the problems of everyone in front of me – mostly trivial or easily solved. When I finally arrived and told my story I was then asked an endless series of questions:

“If you don’t have your key or your badge, how did you get into your room?”
“Are you sure you belong here?”
“Did you register properly online?”
“Everything is done on the internet now, don’t you understand that?”
“Is that your car over there?”
“What made you think you could park there?”

…..

On and on… then I woke up.

Gears

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”
—-Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Detail of Barbecue Trailer, Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Tx
(click to enlarge)

I was having a nightmare. It wasn’t a horrible nightmare – it wasn’t like I was battling with a giant Adenoid that was devouring London or anything like that – it was a simple nightmare of hopeless frustration, defeat and failure. To my horror, I sudden realized that it wasn’t a nightmare after all – that I had woken up hours before and was simply out and going through my normal day.

Daily Writing Tip 21 of 100, Proceed From the Dream Outward

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Proceed From the Dream Outward

Source – The Novel of the Future, by Anaïs Nin

It is interesting to return to the original definition of a word we use too often and too carelessly. The definition of a dream is: ideas and images in the mind not under the command of reason. It is not necessarily an image or an idea that we have during sleep. It is merely an idea or image which escapes the control of reasoning or logical or rational mind. So that dream may include reverie, imagination, daydreaming, the visions and hallucinations under th influence of drugs – any experience which emerges from the realm of the subconscious. These various classifications are merely ways to describe different states or levels of consciousness. The important thing to learn, from art and from literature in particular, is the easy passageway and relationship between them. Neurosis makes a division and sets up defensive boundaries. But the writer can learn to walk easily between one realm and the other without fear, interrelate them, and ultimately fuse them.

….

For this the writer has to learn the passageways. Those passageways are like the locks of canals, feeding each other while controlling levels to prevent flooding. The discipline and form of an artist’s work are set in the same system to prevent flooding. The amateur drowns. The writer has to remain open, fluid, pursue and obey images which his conscious structure tends to break or erase.

This comes back to imagination and courage. Do you have the courage to let your imagination guide your work? Or is the inner editor always there, saying things like, “Nobody is going to understand this,” or “This isn’t what the paying public wants to read right now.” He will be there, saying those things – but you don’t have to listen.

The inner editor might be right… but he is still an asshole – and you shouldn’t listen to assholes.

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands, by J. G. Ballard

Vermilion Sands, by J. G. Ballard

The tree gliders, brilliant painted toys, revolved like lazing birds above Coral D, waiting for the first clouds to pass overhead. Van Eyck moved away to take a cloud. He sailed around its white pillow, spraying the sides with iodide crystals and cutting away the flock-like tissue. The streaming shards fell toward us like crumbling ice-drifts. As the drops of condensing spray fell on my face I could see Van Eyck shaping an immense horse’s head. He sailed up and down the long forehead and chiseled out the eyes and ears.

– J.G. Ballard, The “The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D”

The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D, By J. G. Ballard

The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D, By J. G. Ballard

When I’m writing I have to be very careful about what I read. Too much aesthetic sensibility, too much style, too many splintering ideas come in through my eyes and fall out of my fingertips. I have to read something that is related/similar/compatible with what I want to do, or it all goes to crap.

Well, it seems to all go to crap anyway, but….

I’m rereading some classic J.G. Ballard short stories right now. I forget sometimes how much I love his stuff. I first encountered J. G. Ballard in the early seventies, in the form of a moldering handful of cheap pulp paperback short story collections borrowed from an informal lending library in Managua. I was devouring this stuff back then, reading almost a book a day and very little of it remains in the cobwebby recesses of my failing brain – but one thing that did stick is Ballard.

I remember “The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D” in particular – actually I remember the whole world of “Vermilion Sands.”

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands

(somebody else likes it too)

I remember being caught off-guard by the bizarre dystopian decadence of the fading fantastic vacation resort. It was a door into a frightening yet seductive world tilted away from our own at an oblique angle. The human heart has been twisted – but not so much that it isn’t recognizable. It wasn’t until decades later and I read “Empire of the Sun” that I began to understand the source of Ballard’s vision.

Last night in bed, while I was fighting to stay awake, I reread “Prima Belladonna” – a story about a mutant beauty with golden skin and insect-legged eyelashes and a man that sells plants that sing. It turns out that it was his first sold story. I love the idea that he bought a pram with the proceeds.

One of the stories in the collection, “Prima Belladonna”, was the first piece of fiction that l ever published, and I can still remember the thrill of receiving the cheque for £8. At last I was a professional writer, and my wife and I celebrated by using the money to buy our baby son a new pram. Pushing it past the department stores in Chiswick High Street, a hundred ideas in my head, I felt that I had found the philosopher’s stone.

J.G. Ballard, from The Independent, October 24, 1992

I’m in the final stretch of editing my collection of stories – and I am glad that Ballard shares my love of the form.

THE SHORT STORIES that make up this collection were written between 1956 and 1970, and once they were published in a single volume I never returned, regrettably, to this genial playground. By sealing one’s imagination between hard covers one can close the door forever on a still vivid private world. I’m glad that I began my career by writing short stories, when I was free to chase any passing hare in a way that is no longer possible, and without over-committing myself to a single idea. Fiction today is dominated by career novelists locked into their publishers’ contracts like the prematurely middle-aged encumbered by mortgages and pension plans. Irresponsibility, especially the agreeable variety displayed in Vermilion Sands, has a great many neglected virtues.

J.G. Ballard, from The Independent, October 24, 1992

(Emphasis mine)

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands

I don’t know if it was the odd fiction or the electrical fields from the constant lightning booming down from the Texas summer middle-of-the-night thunderstorms outside my window… or nothing at all – that caused a very odd, intense, and complete dream.

I dreamt that I had gone back to college and was moving back into Ellsworth Hall in Lawrence for a year. Everything had changed so much – the front desk gave me a key that was a little sculptural fob shaped like a tiny Picachu. The dorm was surrounded by a maze-like complex of restaurants and entertainment – it was a frustrating navigational feat to simply find the elevators – my room was 1127. I remember that the residence hall had only ten floors.

I felt so old, so out-of-place – like Rip Van Winkle.

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands