The Corner

Dream Time

Biggest tranche of email on my November Diary concerns the segment about dreaming.

Main points:

  1. I don’t watch half as much TV as a good citizen should. There are lots of dream sequences in TV shows—even one in The Sopranos, I am told. This just drives me to my Heinlein: “A boy who gets a C-minus in Appreciation of Television can’t be all bad. … How would you like to be an infantryman?” (Starship Troopers, Ch. 2).
  2. Vote for best movie dream sequence ever (from 2 readers): Cries and Whispers. Never seen it, just passing it on.
  3. [A reader] “In a death dream there is a ‘God’ Element, a ‘people you knew in life’ element, and an emotional point to be made. Your inner mind (id) wants to talk to you about something, but it hasn’t the vocabulary to bring it up properly. Something about your relationship with death/afterlife I suppose. The light may indicate a nuclear explosion, but may simply be the ‘standard myth’ of the light leading to the afterlife. The light would be the God element. The people about you aren’t identified because they are precisely ‘unidentified people that you knew’. This is an emotional word that the id knows how to use and looking at old school pictures is precisely the sort of thing that brings up that word in dreams. Ids are terrible conversationalists, 2 words and it thinks it has a dialog.” [Me] Um, is “id” related to “IQ”? Should I pronounce “IQ” as “ick”? Or what? Not really in tune with mental stuff, I guess.
  4. [A different reader] “Back when I was 10 (1968), I had dreams with flashes of light followed by rising red mushroom clouds. The funny thing was, the people that I could see wore turbans and saris. Where did that come from?” [Me] From about 2015, would be my guess.
  5. [Same reader as previous] “When did a movie last have a dream sequence? Try Cars, the Pixar / Disney animated film. There’s a funny dream where the race cars are beaten at the speedway by an agricultural harvester!” [Me] I’m not sure animated movies count. I mean, is a toon dream really, like, a dream? I feel a sudden need to hold on to something…
  6. Interesting discussion with a couple of readers about the cultural preference for dream sequences in literature and movies. They are big in Chinese literature, I have noticed—heck, the greatest classic Chinese novel has “dream” in its title. (As, of course, do some very, very fine American novels.) Prof. Bauer has lots to say about this in China and the Search for Happiness, which I’ll leave you to look up for yourselves. Japanese too: “The eminent Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami uses dreams sequences. The climactic confrontation in his novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle took place in one such.” Latin-American literature, I’m told, is big on dreaming, too—this connected somehow, I suppose, to the deplorable (in my opinion) “magic realism” genre. (Me: What’s wrong with real realism?) Jorge Luis Borges has dream sequences, though the man has never, in my esteem, recovered from Philip Larkin’s response, on being asked whether he (Larkin) had ever read him (Borges): “Jorge Luis who?” Oh, and: “Herman Hesse’s Der Steppenwolf ends in a dream sequence of sorts.” There’s a Comparative Lit. Ph.D. thesis here somewhere.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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