diving from unspeakably beautiful gold cliffs

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I used to think that it was a bad thing to mention dreams in fiction. I’d read an essay by John Leonard, I believe it was, in The New York Times Book Review sometime in the late Seventies, in which he said that dreams in novels were a mistake. But I rejected that notion ages ago. Dreams are part of the truth of life and the job of a book is to feel its way forward through a character’s days and nights. In the book I just finished writing, I included a dream in which my narrator finds an old bicycle horn on a set of subway stairs somewhere near Columbia. Why not? It’s a dream I actually had a few years ago. The letter O is a good dream letter. It begins the word “oneiric,” which is a dark interesting sharp-edged word that college professors used to use in class in place of “dreamlike.” I used to dream fairly frequently and oneirically that my mouth was full of masses of unchewable, exhausted, flavorless chewing gum. I realized that what I was dreaming about was my own boring tongue. I wrote about this dream in a novel and because I wrote about it, the dream stopped recurring and I missed it.

more from Nicholson Baker at the NYRB here.

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