Monday, November 03, 2008

The Predatory Dream

I'm reading Ehud Havazelet's Bearing the Body right now, both for pleasure and in preparation to teach it to my Jewish American Fiction class this week. I had originally intended to teach his second collection of short stories, Like Never Before, but found it was out of print. I don't understand why this is so--I liked it so much that I cannot imagine it not going into reprint after reprint. But this is the way it is. Bearing the Body, however, Havazelet's first novel, is even better, and I'm excited because Havazelet will actually be speaking at my university this week as well.

The plot and characters are extremely well-developed, but I think it's the undertones of loss, sorrow, and memory that are the most compelling. And it feels very, very honest. There's something emotionally raw about it that is appealing not on the basis of pathos, but because it gives one the sense that, yes, that's exactly how things are. About a third of the way through I read the following:

The dream had the placidity of memory--not to say memory wasn't painful, Sol would be the last, ever, to claim that. But it was contained, bounded by event, and, most of the time, recollection was a matter of choice. Not like dreams, which knew where to find you, how to get in. (70).

I'm struck by two things in particular. First, is the idea that memory is the product of a decision one makes--in other words, that I can choose either to entertain a memory or to suppress it. I tend not to be very good at silencing memories when they surface; I have a tendency to let them run their course and finish in whatever way they will, whether that is joy or tears. So the idea that choice is connected to memories is an interesting one.

Second, and more fascinating for me, is the idea of the dream as a kind of night-time predator--something that comes looking for you when you are most vulnerable. No doubt some dreams are merely the product of the memories we willfully suppress in waking moments. But often we don't know what they are and where they come from; they are the ultimate predator.

I can relate to this, of course, given the fact that the initial impetus for this blog was my fascination with dreams and visions that begin to take shape in the darkness but continue to bloom in daylight. I have mentioned before that I often experience night terrors--moments when I awake during the night and see a figure who has come to kill me. My predatory dreams are often themselves full of predators, whether it is a dark figure with murder on his mind, or (like last night) a giant raccoon perched on my dresser, staring at me with his teeth and claws bared.

I once knew someone who said that he didn't dream, that he had never in his life dreamed a dream in the darkness of night-time sleep. I wonder why dreams prey on some and not others.

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