Thursday, July 4, 2013

Literary Dream

Last night I dreamt I read an amazing fantasy/SF short story, called Something "Remix'd," in which the writer had mixed and, indeed, remixed the same elements in successive vignettes, producing a final product that I wanted to make photocopies of and send to every reader I know because it was just that good.  But when I awoke, I couldn't remember anything concrete about this story. 

Do we quickly lose the details of our dreams when we awake, or it is that these details never really existed at all?  What would happen if (be patient, this is a thought experiment) I could re-enter my dream world with my waking faculties operational?

I assume I would be like an enthusiastic theater-goer who climbs onto the stage after the performance is over and finds that the world that looked and felt so authentic and compelling from a distance with the lights down low is actually just rough outlines of paint on boards.

This whole question reminds me of Coleridge's famous poem "Kubla Khan," that he claimed he dreamt in its entirety (200-300 lines) in an opium dream and that he started to set down directly on paper immediately after waking  -- but he was interrupted by someone (the "man from Porlock") for an hour and was thus unable to write the rest of the poem, which had evaporated in the interim.  But as my high school English teacher said (and as appears to be the case), multiple drafts of the poem have come to light, demonstrating that he had reworked the poem significantly over time, undermining the idea that he awoke from his dream and transcribed the lines from memory. 

I wonder, was Coleridge a flat-out liar, unable to complete his poem and inventing this dream story to both excuse its fragmentary nature and daub it with the magic of a supposed mystical inspiration?  Or did he really believe that he had dreamt the poem but ended up having to work very hard to recreate it (i.e., the feelings that he had experienced in his opium dream state)?  Perhaps the poet (and friend of Coleridge's) Robert Southey was onto something when he joked, "Coleridge had dreamed he had written a poem in a dream."


Debbie said...

No idea about Coleridge. Sounds like a quick answer to a possibly oft-asked question. Or maybe he was subtly defending an enjoyment of opium. Well, no idea.

As for dreams, I know whole dreams quickly disappear when we wake and I wouldn't be surprised if many details never existed at all or--if they did exist--were seen with rose-colored glasses.

So the time I dreamt that I did an entire science fair project on the day it was due but when I woke up I could not even remember the topic--I'm guessing that detail was not really part of the dream.

And the time I dreamt that Mom and I went to the bank and were directed to go down the hall, then up the stairs, and all but the top three steps were missing, so Mom lifted me up to the bottom-most step and then jumped up to grab it and climb on herself, and it did not really seem any more out of the ordinary than a minor traffic jam--my waking faculties certainly noticed that this was odd.

Of course some details are there--I remember the time I finally knew the answer to whether I dreamed in color because a receipt had come out like a ribbon with pink flowers on it. I remembered them being pink, so at least once I dreamed in color. But then other times I've found myself tempted to add details just so that whatever I remembered would make more sense.

Sally said...

Interesting. I definitely have had the experience of filling in the details later to make more sense of a dream (only to have them still seem really bizarre, usually).

Tam said...

Sometimes I think I wake up and immediately decide who the people in a dream were. For instance, I might be driving in a car with a man, and I wake up and, based on a feeling, declare that the man was, say, Robert, without being sure that he was really Robert in the dream. Maybe Robert is just the person who gives me an overall feeling closest to that I got from the man in the dream.

Debbie M said...

Tam, I do a similar thing. I try to figure out what from my life is triggering the dream. For example, the time I dreamed about evil green skyscrapers growing like fast-motion plants in the background, when I woke up, I recognized that green as the same color as the mildew we had been scraping off the shower floor the previous day to prepare the camp for opening day.

Most recently, I decided that the tales of horror in Arthur Conan Doyle's Tales of Horror and Mystery sometimes give me nightmares.

So even though the details my be different, I decide that certain people or events are represented.