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Volume 90, Issue 85
Thursday, March 06, 1997
Dreaming up world history
A World of My Own
By Graham Greene
Paperback, $13.95, 116 pages
Some authors believe that writing an autobiography is the act of an egoist. When undertaking such a task, the author should pose the questions, "How interested are people going to be in my life and, furthermore, how interested will I be, as I tell it?"
What happens, however, when an author delves into the history of his/her dreams? Surely it cannot be egotistical to share non-sensical scenes that the author has experienced?
Before his death in 1991, Graham Greene requested that his self-edited dream diary be published. Greene divides his experiences into two parts: those experiences that take place in the "Common World," which is the real world we all share; and "The World of his Own," a summation of experiences while dreaming.
Greene's habit of recording his dreams dated back to when he was a young boy and was undergoing psychoanalysis. In 1965, Greene began a diary of his dreams, which by 1989 had reached 800 pages. Later, he reduced his comprehensive volume to a mere hundred pages.
The chapters in A World of My Own are divided into subjects, such as "Some Famous Writers I Have Known," "Disease and Death," "Travel," "Love?" and "Unpleasant Experiences." Each chapter depicts several brief scenes, usually entailing a tangled web of people, conversation, place and time. For example, Greene describes a terrible river boat journey to Bogota with the famous writer Henry James during 1988. Greene reluctantly gives up the chance to jump ship, because of James' determination to reach the bitter end.
Reaching the end of this novel is made easy by Greene's humourous accounts, such as his appointment to become the Archbishop of Westminster. The church discovers, after hiring a private detective, that Greene had several mistresses and had cheated on his last income tax return.
The humour widens during his narrow escape from Haiti, where he convinces a police guard to free him in exchange for 17 volumes of erotic Bambi books. Reaching further into the world of animals, Greene recounts having a conversation with a lost dog, who claims he has no money for a taxi to return to his resident hotel.
In the world of sea creatures, Greene recalls an unpleasant experience of urinating 12 shrimps and one lobster. In another story, Greene describes an equally unpleasant sensation involving a fat spider grasping his penis. Anecdotal tales of this nature fill the book, leading one to chortle amusingly at Greene's honesty in reporting his dreams.
Reading the spun tales of his dreams, one begins to wonder if all the dreams are reported with accuracy. The majority of dreams seem to involve ridiculous circumstances or famous people. Perhaps those who associate with famous people in the real world dream about famous people. Greene's idle fancies prove to be somewhat of a who's who list: T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Adolph Hitler, Fidel Castro, Oliver Cromwell and Pope John XXIII.
If there is a right to embellish historical accounts, it makes more sense to do so inside the realm of a dream than in the real world. Furthermore, a dream does not create an egoist but rather, opens the door to a playing field that laughs in the face of restrictions. Greene scores many goals by providing interesting sub-conscious scenes but receives penalties for stiffening the air with his pretension.
By Adeena Karasick
Paperback, 96 pgs.
In a sepulcheral semiotic of stoichea logoi imbalance
she was up to her albeit.
Well, it certainly sounds intelligent and meaningful. Maybe just a peek in the dictionary. . .
Genrecide is a compilation of poetry, pictures and pop culture references by Canadian performance-poet Adeena Karasick. With a North American-wide Lollapalooza tour under her belt, Karasick must be a representative voice of Generation X, right?
Described on the back of the book itself as "less a poetry of ideas than ideas of poetry," Karasick's work is definitely a far cry from any traditional forms of poetry. After spending the 20 minutes it takes to read the entire book, one is left to wonder, "What does she really consider poetry to be?"
Each poem consists of a neverending series of really, really big words. And not just English words either. Karasick mixes Greek, French, German and Hebrew with many terms borrowed from historical, feminist and literary criticism. After the first few words or so, the dictionary will come in very handy for understanding the meaning of single words. But attempting to make sense of any two words together takes some imagination. Gratuitous use of alliteration and rhyme connect these words into some sort of a unit, but these are the only ways they are related.
The experience of reading Karasick's disjointed, nonsensical poetry is akin to channel surfing just mindless entertainment for an attention-deficient generation. Genrecide is definitely fast food poetry, immediately gratifying because it just sounds good, with no deeper meaning to be discovered.
The centre pages of the book are dedicated to a compilation of pop culture images and snippets of historical literary criticism. This use of mixed media is nothing that hasn't been done before, and in fact, very little meaning can be taken from it. What does Karasick intend by mixing The Violent Femmes, Gary Larson, Hitler and Jacques Derrida? Even a close analysis of the 30 pages will not divulge the message.
The only interesting part of the segment seems to consist of a list of critiques of Karasick's work. "Write this in English. . .Is this a code?" The humour arises from the fact that these lines will echo what has been running through the reader's mind during the first half of the book. The reason for the inclusion of these lines, however, is not apparent.
Adeena Karasick will definitely never be touted as a ground-breaking Canadian poet. She may have moved in a different direction from the conventions of modern poetry, but this is one instance in which different is not better. Her depthless, mindless ramblings fail to signify anything to the reader except to provide shallow entertainment. Exactly what the media-created Generation X would enjoy.
Oh, and according to the Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary, the line quoted at the beginning of this review would mean something like "In a non-balanced, measured, logical sign system relating to the burial of the dead she was up to her though." Yeah, whatever.
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