- A World of My Own: A Dream Diary by Graham Greene
Reinhardt, 116 pp, £12.99, October 1992, ISBN 1 871061 36 9
In my experience the dreams that are recovered (most are lost) fall into two categories – the majority, which are pedestrian and seldom interesting, and the few which are so different from the many as to belong almost to a distinct category of experience. Vivid, full of atmosphere, these latter are insistently ‘significant’ beyond their literal import while at the same time resisting any simple symbolic interpretation; and if they can be retained through the levels of waking, they often seem worth recording. There is for me, in other words, a poetry and a prose of dreams.
Vol. 14 No. 24 · 17 December 1992
Graham Greene’s A World of My Own: A Dream Diary could well precipitate a whole new genre: the recorded literary dream. In his review of the book (LRB, 3 December) C.K. Stead rightly says that some dreams are ‘insistently “significant” beyond their literal import while at the same time resisting any symbolic interpretation’. Here are two of mine: Philip Larkin came to visit and sat on the sofa with an enormous pile of dark coloured shirts at his side. I can’t remember a thing he said, but he was busily sewing, since nearly all the shirts had missing buttons. On another occasion, I met Seamus Heaney in a large supermarket carpark outside Dublin. He was going to a poetry reading, and had a 1957 Chevvy with a carburettor and intake pipes so large that there was no room for a bonnet. He was very apologetic about the car, and said that it wasn’t his, he had borrowed it from someone.
Vol. 15 No. 2 · 28 January 1993
The new genre of ‘the recorded literary dream’ proposed by Bernard Richards (Letters, 17 December 1992) will need careful, indeed stringent definition before being awarded canonical status. How otherwise can it be distinguished from ‘fiction’, and especially in the old Puritan sense? I dreamt last night that John Cage discoursed at great and learned length, to me personally, about the habits of a wide-winged sea bird which, when ill, secreted itself in a heavily-lidded earthenware pot. I asked: ‘But how does it get the lid off?’ ‘You must consult him about such technical details,’ Cage replied, gesturing vaguely towards a third figure lurking in the background, who then said: ‘I am Erik Satie.’ But I could tell from the absence of any beard and some uneasiness of manner that his real name was William Wordsworth. Cage went on to say that ‘the sailors shot the albatross because they were weevils in the ship’s biscuits.’ The colours, I should add, were entrancing, ‘colours you’d like to see’.
I’d swear to all this in a court of law, but who would believe me?