Monday, January 16, 2012

A World of My Own

Graham Greene never wrote a full autobiography. The closest he came was a thin volume called A World of My Own - a collection of short excerpts from several decades worth of daily dream journals. Greene felt that these insights into his subconscious mind were a more honest self-portrait than any conscious autobiography could ever be, so he arranged for them to be published after his death in 1991.

In one chapter, the author writes about “some famous writers I have known” - known, that is, through encounters in dreams. Greene observes that only dead writers seem to visit his subconscious, which lends a ghostly credibility to what he refers to as his “other world.” I must say I like the idea of dead writers visiting the dreams of living writers, perhaps granting only as much time as the living writer deserves before moving on to another dream. Greene was “visited” by quite a few noteworthy figures, including T.S. Eliot (and it’s obviously the much older Eliot, the dour critic who inspired the nickname “The Pope of Russell Square”). Their exchange is brief... but at least more convincing than a book written a few years later by a medium that claims to have channeled Eliot repeatedly. (I can’t remember the name of the book, and I’m not sure I’d mention it here even if I did... As soon as I started reading it, I felt like an idiot for taking the time to track it down.)

While I’m indulging this fantastic idea of ghostly visitations from dead writers, let me add that I too have been “visited” by a few noteworthy figures. The first one I can remember was Charles Bukowski. Roughly four years after he died, I observed L.A.’s dharma bum in Heaven, conversing with a little girl who was crushed by an avalanche. When I woke up and wrote about the encounter, I noted that Bukowski was “uncharacteristically silent.” Around the same time, I dreamed about George A. Romero’s “retirement party.” Obviously Romero is still alive... but, since he has spent his career making films about the “living dead,” I think it’s appropriate that he should already be visiting the dreams of wannabe filmmakers. One of my favorite dream encounters happened just last year. This one was with an actor that I’ve admired since I was a kid...

February 15, 2011

I met Boris Karloff last night... at the tail end of a long dream in which I narrowly escaped a collapsing building during an earthquake.

In the aftermath, Mr. Karloff and I crossed paths and I instantly recognized him. He was very old, and carrying a fishing rod and tackle box away from the anxious crowd.

I followed him into a quiet riverside community and approached with as much confidence as I could muster. "Mr. Karloff," I said timidly.... He acknowledged me, but didn't stop. He seemed to be in a hurry, so I figured I'd better get to the point fast. "I was wondering if I could take you to lunch."

At this, he turned and sized me up. I figured I'd better say something else, so added, "If I'm not imposing too much... I'd really like to know more about you."

After a moment of apparent confusion, he smiled with acceptance. "That would be fine," he said, and he handed me the rod and tackle box. He didn't say "follow me," but I got the distinct impression that I was supposed to.

We kept going until we reached a stone house. It looked like it had been carved out of a very old rock - like something from The Flintstones. The surroundings looked like Malibu Creek Park in the summer... on a weekday morning when nobody is around, and the only sounds are nature: birds and running water.

I followed Karloff around the back of his house and saw that it was perched on a wide river. He kept moving, across several sections of wooden deck that were rotting away. One section was in such poor shape that it swayed like a hammock when he crossed it. I looked down and saw that it was hanging by only three nails. I hesitated, saying, "I think I'm heavier than you." He didn't bother to look back. He simply said, unconcerned, "It'll serve it's tour of duty."

So I took a leap of faith and crossed the deck. It swayed, but held.

When I safely reached the other side, Karloff was sitting on a well-worn rock, waiting for his fishing rod and tackle box. I dutifully gave them to him and watched as he cast a line into the river. I wondered how long he had been doing this... and how much longer he would continue doing it... but I said nothing. When he cast the line, I turned and looked across the river.

On the other side was a Native American community center. There were six or seven people cleaning up after a mid-day outdoor picnic - taking everything off of the picnic tables. Their faces were solemn, so I asked, "Why are they so sad?"

"Their time is almost up," he said, and that was all. He was intently focused on the water, so I did the same.

At first, all I could see was the reflection of the afternoon sun dancing in the current. Then my eyes began to focus on what was beneath the water. I could hardly believe what I saw... a giant blowfish, then a giant sting ray. The water was teeming with life... but not the kind of life you'd expect to see in a river in southern California. These were creatures that belonged at the bottom of the ocean...

The longer I looked, the deeper the river became and the more I saw. After a while, I was utterly hypnotized by the bottomless river and the dream-like world in Karloff's back yard. "You live here?" I asked, awe-struck. Karloff simply smiled.

Then I noticed a new shape in the water. It was too big to discern at first, but as I saw more and more, it became vaguely familiar.

Then, all at once, I knew what I was looking at.

"Is that Nessie?" I asked, daring to believe.

Karloff just laughed -- a good-natured laugh, full of life. It went on forever.

March 28, 2011

In my dream, I was a psychic writer who had access to the “mass mind” of all the great writers throughout history. Advertisers were courting me so that they could get promotional jingles by Shakespeare and Dostoevsky. It wasn’t entirely a power-trip dream, because I was not the only psychic writer. Somehow, the mass mind had been opened up to all writers with any integrity. This had the effect of weeding out all the bad writers, who had to go do something else with their lives…. In the dream the good writers not only became psychic but the bad writers suddenly realized that they were bad writers. If only…


  1. The writers in your dreams seem silent. Observant, not informant. But you glean a lot from their silence. That's because you are one of them.

  2. Thanks, Dave. I just read Shannon's latest blog. Wow!