Posts Tagged ‘Dreams’

The Other and Ulrikke by Borges – Story Review

May 20, 2010

I have been trying to get into Jorge Luis Borges for about five years now. I had a professor at Siena Heights who really pushed the guy and I really respected this professor, so when he leant me his collection of Borges’s fiction I really tried to bear down on the thing and get under its skin. And I failed. Miserably. The thing ended up sitting on my shelf for a few weeks until the time that I returned it to him, told him how much I enjoyed it but didn’t get far into it and silently promised to take up the task again in the near future.

Five years later I pulled the collection out of the local library and have begun again. I may or may not have given the thing a chance while at UT but I can’t say for certain as that period of my life is mostly filled with memories of darkness, destruction and calamity. And none of the aforementioned triumvirate of misery had anything to really do with grad school itself, which should really tell you how wonderful those two years were.

Now I am having just as difficult of a time but I’m still trying. Instead of starting at the beginning, I’m going through the book almost at random, reading what immediately catches my eye while skipping over the things that hold less interest. This is the first story that truly grabbed me.

It centers around Borges encountering a younger version of himself on a park bench. in Cambridge, in February 1969. The bulk of the story consists of the older Borges trying to convince the younger Borges that this meeting is actually taking place and that they are, in fact, the same person. Despite many repeated attempts, the younger Borges refuses to capitulate, refuses to believe in the assertions made by thee older Borges.

It finally turns at the end where the older Borges continues to believe that he is real but that the other Borges was dreaming, but dreaming poorly as he dreamed of  a paper bill that couldn’t have existed. It’s an almost easy ending that allows you to forget how well it just plain old works.

and I’m still trying to decide whether I like it or not. It is a variation on the old “and it was all a dream!” ending that reeks of an author taking the easy way out of a difficult situation. At the same time, Borges isn’t saying all of it was a dream, just the other guy; that everything else was real except the younger Borges was there while dreaming while the older Borges was awake during the conversation. And all of the proof the older Borges has is this dollar bill that was dreamed incorrectly.

At first I didn’t think there was much to it, despite the story being enjoyable. I thought it was just a cute little thing. But the most obvious question soon surfaced: why does the older Borges so stridently believe that he’s not the dreamer? After all, it could just as easily be him that dreamed the incorrect dollar bill and it may be more likely that the dreamer would believe in his reality more than the dreamed.

But there wasn’t much I could do with this until I read the next story, Ulrikke. It’s a story, again about Borges, but about his short affair with a Norwegian woman: Ulrikke. Like The Other, Ulrikke depends greatly on the author’s point of view and the knowledge pre-supposed. Taken together, it seems that memory and perception are focus points for Borges. In either story, the protagonist has a great belief in how they view the world being the correct view. They take assured steps because of this. But I’m not sure either protagonist has great reason to believe this.

The problem I am encountering with Borges is that his fiction is so short, that it is difficult to break one story down into enough, well, stuff to really do anything with. It appears that the only way to mine Borges is to read an entire collection (not necessarily his career collection but one of the individual collections he put out in his life) and to see where the whole goes.  I’ll keep mining.


Oblivion – Story Review

March 15, 2010

The end leaves you wondering why you read the whole story. While such an ending was a humorous way of conluding a Bob Newhart series, it didn’t work so well for explaining away the biggest moment in the history of Dallas. It doesn’t do a whole lot for this story, either. Finding out all of what preceded was just a dream by the wife rings out as a hollow ending, an attempt to be cute in a book almost entirely devoid of cuteness. On the one hand, it opens up the possibility of the dream being a look into some unconscious feelings towards the marriage.

We are led to believe that the husband has, in some way, been consciously sleeping, perhaps faking his snoring, on some weird subconcious level while actually asleep, to irritate his wife. The bulk of the story is told in the clubhouse at a golf club by the husband to his father-in-law, which seems like an odd choice for a confidant when you’re essentially saying his daughter is nuts and is making their marriage a living hell by her incessant complaining about his snoring.

Honestly, if that’s as far as the story went before the woman wakes up and its revealed that this whole mess was really just a dream, there wouldn’t be much more to write about. What might save the story from falling into its clichéd ending is the little twist revealed just before the turn where you are given a hint that, at some level, the husband is purposefully snoring while asleep, something that should be impossible. This possibility is given an extra little push by a moment in the video from the sleep clinic that shows him slyly opening one eye to look at his still sleeping wife while he is snoring.

Now, by itself this certainly lends a creepy aspect to the husband that may not have been entirely there before. If he is somehow willing himself to snore while in deep sleep, and is weirdly subconsciously/consciously watching his wife to see if he’s effective, it raises a disturbing question over how strong the human subconscious is and how much control is really can assert over  a person’s actions. But what happens when we realize that this is all a creation of his wife’s unconscious mind?

Also, how reliable now is the narrator for the previous story? Finding out that it was all a dream throws the reliability of the narrator into serious question as the very notion of a dream lends a certain fog of uncertainty to it. All readers know that dreams are not reality but can work as representations of something about reality. So now we can no longer honestly look at the majority of the story as any sort of fact but only as some sort of representation of fact. Much of this collection has centered on stories that have passed through a number of filters and we are left to decide what has been filtered out, what has been allowed to pass and why. Part of what this story comes down to must essentially fit into this theme that rears itself in the  majority of the other stories.

Speaking of filters, this story passes through at least three. One is her husband’s, who is the narrator for the bulk of the story. The second is, obviously, Hope’s subconscious mind that we find has constructed the events entirely, and the third is the almost entirely unseen (aside from a few lines of dialog at the end) conscious Hope. At some point, it becomes crucial to figure out the meaning of the story in how it must relate to the conscious Hope’s world,f or her world is the only world that is mitigated by unreality. It’s the only world that’s “real” but the only picture we can draw from it now is from inferences made from the dream world told through the imagined lens of her husband.

Part of me does not believe the story works because it simply doesn’t give us enough information we can concretely say is True. I feel it is entirely safe to say that Hope’s dream must in some way be representational of Hope’s reality but we can’t judge how representational it is or of what it might be representing. At the same time, I would be hesitant to say that determining how/what the dream represents is what matters to Wallace in this story. Perhaps the exploration of narrator and time is what Wallace is looking to explore and the lack of information to encourage a reading of representation/reality is purposeful.  It might be Wallace’s way  of focusing our attention on what he wants it focused on. Rather than having a better story, Wallace may have been pushing for a clearer point.

Dream Drinking and finding cubed elderly

May 10, 2009

The past couple of days I’ve remembered a couple of my dreams beyond those first few moments of consciousness when the two worlds of our perceptively real and perceptively unreal mix and have their boundaries blurred. Often when I dream I reach this point, and the few moments after, and I remember the dream and then it slowly fades into the ether. But now a couple of days later and they are still with me to some degree.

in one dream, I started telling time with the old movie trick of repeating an action over and over while changing details to denote the passage of time. I was buying liquor. One bottle at a time I dreamed of going in and buying a new drink.  Bottle after bottle the shelves were gradually emptied. I don’t know how much time supposedly passed in my dream edits but it was a fair amount and I remember occasionally looking into my wallet and seeing a fat stack of cash thinned down to scraggly bills. And the hell of it was that I wasn’t even buying liquor I liked. It all looked like vodka and gin and I don’t care for either of them. Even in my dreams I just buy the cheapest drunk I can.

then in my second dream, the events were actuially fairly short but it felt as if the dream pulled out for hours. We couldn’t get my grandma on her phone so my mom and I went over and I got out of the car and walked up to the door and when I opened it I wasn’t really shocked as I saw exactly what I expected to see, only the form she took was a bit different. Grandma was dead in her chair but she looked like some cubist reconstruction of death, her body contorted andshaped in ways she would have never been capable of in this real world. And she was wearing yellow which I also found fairly odd. And that is where the dream ended.

I’m not sure if one caused the othe and the stories were told out of order or what. Or if one is a bizarre premonition of something that is to come, though I can’t imagine myself drinking a lot of bad liquor for no reason. I don’t know. But there you have it. My dreams lately.