Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Dreaming is Free, mercifully, as I'm not sure I'd pay for it

'All that we see or seem', wrote Poe, 'Is but a dream within a dream.' Nope, you were wrong there, Edgar. Go easy on that laudanum. The hard-edged contours of our daily life may occasionally get a little blurry before our waking eyes, but rarely ever so warped as the stuff we see and seem while we're asleep. (Funnily enough Poe's poem was turned into a pop song by Propaganda, a band I liked a great deal back in 1985. And while tuning into the first couple reels of John Carpenter's The Fog on ITV4 the other night - something I must have done a million times - I realised I'd forgotten that Carpenter took the line cited above as his film's fancy epigraph.)
While I'm being scholastic, may we then contend that 'A dream is a wish your heart makes / When you're fast asleep?' I ask only because this Hal David tune is strongly featured in Disney's Cinderella, which I must have sat and watched with my daughter about a million times in the last week alone. But no, I have to be a blasted pedant and observe that when Cinders sings about 'a dream' she is referring in fact to what Dr Freud called a 'phantasy': a neurotic daydreaming or, if we are more generous, the imaginative activity that underlies all waking thought and feeling.
All this occurs to me because earlier this week I woke, rather troubled, from a dream in which I met someone I hadn't seen for maybe 15 years, the setting being a place much like that in which we last met, the person physically unchanged by the passage of those 15 years - and yet I in this dream was much the same person I am today, fully aged and weathered by said interim. It certainly wasn't the sort of encounter I would have bothered to daydream about, nor did it much resemble those that I have on a daily basis. Therefore I would venture that however one would best define it, pace Poe and Cinderella, would be the definition of what a dream is.
Thinking about the great enemies of Freud in our time puts me in mind of Vladimir Nabokov, whose writing I used to love. Apparently he explained his disdain to one interviewer like so: 'I think he’s crude, I think he’s medieval, and I don’t want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me... I don’t have the dreams that he discusses in his books.'
There's a bit in Transparent Things which, I think, suggests that Nabokov thought himself much too good for the sort of dreams Freud discussed... That said, I don't think I have 'those' dreams either. And yet, still, I feel 'the Viennese Quack' was onto something.
(That Nabokov's other great professed hate was Dostoyevsky is the decisive reason why I finally stopped reading VN's stuff. Because what could one think but 'Get over yourself, man'?)

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