Monday, April 9, 2018

Which is Almost a Post about Books and Dreaming, but Needs Editing

What Dreams May Come

All English Literature can be said to begin with a dream.

Caedmon, (flourished 658–680), first Old English Christian poet, whose fragmentary hymn to the creation remains a symbol of the adaptation of the aristocratic-heroic Anglo-Saxon verse tradition to the expression of Christian themes. His story is known from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which tells how Caedmon, an illiterate herdsman, retired from company one night in shame because he could not comply with the demand made of each guest to sing. Then in a dream a stranger appeared commanding him to sing of “the beginning of things,” and the herdsman found himself uttering “verses which he had never heard.”

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Often cited as the world's first science fiction novel, Frankenstein was inspired by a vivid nightmare. At 18 years old, Shelley visited Lord Byron by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Stuck indoors and huddled around a log fire, Byron suggested they each write a ghost story - but, night after night, Shelley was unable to think of anything suitable. Then one evening, when discussion turned to the nature of life, Shelley suggested "perhaps a corpse could be re-animated" backed by the thought that "galvanism had given token of such things". Later that night after turning in, her imagination took hold and she experienced what she described as a vivid waking dream: "I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

“Kubla Khan” from Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: One of the most famous examples of dream-inspired literature, the famous poem — printed in the book Christabel – wafted into Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s brain from a combination of sleep and opium. One of his most beloved works, he described it as a “fragment” rather than a whole, though most critics these days analyze it as the latter.

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed up three key sequences from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. "For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers." While he was recovering in bed from a hemorrhage, Fanny Stevenson heard his screams resulting from an opium-induced nightmare. He promptly awoke and complained: "Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale."

H. P. Lovecraft ... a number of his menacing characters and strange storylines first appeared in dreams. Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle tales are the most obvious example, set in dreamlike outer realms inhabited by strange creatures. One particular yarn from this series, the short story The Statement of Randolph Carter, was based on a dream Lovecraft transcribed, and to which he only added a preface for clarity. Similarly, his prose poem “Nyarlathotep” was inspired by a recurring nightmare Lovecraft had experienced since the age of ten.

Stuart Little, by E B White. E. B. White fell asleep on a train and “dreamed of a small character who had the features of a mouse, was nicely dressed, courageous, and questing.” White had eighteen nieces and nephews, who were always begging him to tell them a story, but he shied away from making one up off the top of his head. Instead, he set to writing, and stocked a desk drawer with tales about his “mouse-child . . . the only fictional figure ever to have honored and disturbed my sleep.” He named him Stuart. Inspiration for the talking rodent stemmed from a dream of E B White's in the 1920s, although it took him two decades to convert his notes into a novel.

J. R. R. Tolkien: Numenor "I say this about the 'heart' [of the Legendarium], for I have what some might call an Atlantis complex. Possibly inherited, though my parents died too young for me to know such things about them and too young to transfer such thing by words. Inherited from me (I suppose) by one only of my children, though I did not know that about my son [Michael] until recently, and he did not know it about me. I mean the terrible recurrent dream (beginning with memory) of the Great Wave, towering up, and coming in ineluctably over the trees and green fields. (I bequeathed it to Faramir.) I don't think I have had it since I wrote the 'Downfall of Nùmenor' as the last of the legends of the First and Second Age."--Letter to W. H. Auden , 7 June 1955

Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac: Everything readers need to know about this novel comes straight from the title. Beat poster boy Jack Kerouac kept and published a book comprised entirely of his dreams, spanning from 1952 to 1960 and starring characters from many of his other works.

Stephen King: Salem's Lot. One eerie dream in particular during his childhood proved so haunting and Stephen King-esque that it would be used as an outline for Salem's Lot decades later. “It was a dream where I came up a hill and there was a gallows on top of this hill with birds all flying around it. There was a hang man there. He had died, not by having his neck broken, but by strangulation. I could tell because his face was all puffy and purple. And as I came close to him he opened his eyes, reached his hands out and grabbed me. Years later I began to work on Salem’s Lot... as I was looking around for a spooky house, a guy who works in the creative department of my brain said, ‘Well what about this nightmare you had when you were eight or nine years old? Will that work?’ And I remembered the nightmare, and I thought, yes, it’s perfect.”- Stephen King, Writers Dreaming. Also Misery by Stephen King, a most memorable horror story that began as King drifted off to sleep on a flight to London. He dreamed of a chilling tale about an insane woman who mutilates and kills her favorite writer, binding a book in his skin.

My Education: A Book of Dreams (1995) is the final novel by William S. Burroughs to be published before his death in 1997. It is a collection of dreams, taken from various decades, along with a few comments about the War on Drugs and paragraphs created with the cut-up technique. The title is explained in the very first dream, dated 1959: Burroughs is trying to board an airplane, but a woman at the ticket counter "with the cold waxen face of an intergalactic bureaucrat" refuses him passage, informing him, "You haven't had your education yet."

Other books and authors : William Styron, Sophie's Choice; Stephanie Myers,The Twilight Series; H. G. Wells, Twelve Stories and a Dream (no original citation for the dream). There is a whole genre of "dream literature" that is a form of telling a story by simply saying it was a dream, with, perhaps, no original dream that inspires it: The Vision of Piers Plowman by William Langland, The Book of the Duchess by Geoffrey Chaucer, A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis all fit in this category.

Sources, but so scrambled it's hard to tell sometimes what's from where. All original credit to them; I just stitched them together:

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