Reading Other People’s Dreams

February 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

Now reading: Joseph Cornell’s Dreams, ed. Catherine Corman.

One of the things I like to collect are dream narratives: peoples’ descriptions of their own dreams, literary renderings of dreams, etc. I’ve been reading before bed a slim volume of the dreams of the artist Joseph Cornell as recorded in his diaries.

Partly I like reading dreams because I think those old dicta that other people’s dreams are always boring, and long descriptions of dreams should always be avoided in writing, are stupid and have never been followed anywhere by any writer of merit. Dreams are interesting. Dreams are complicated and dumb and profound and wildly divergent from one another. Plus I love the challenge of capturing the feeling of a dream in words–an impossible task.

Anyway, Cornell was a great dream-recorder. Sometimes they’re just little 5-word snippets of imagery, sometimes they seem like descriptions of his own creations, sometimes they are nice little narratives. This is one of my favorites:

July 31, 1964

old photos of childhood come to life–self come to life…

as tho seeing self from a raised ledge in a sheltered area looking out + down upon costumed self moving across lawn…

upturned of self with its awkward (movement) across the lawn

I also love this sad, touching dream. How he comes close to the experience of a dream in which identities are confused and mingled:

August 24, 1965

–dream of shopping for taking home to Robert [his brother, deceased prior to this dream] 2 items for a meal–bag of pot. puff balls + 10 cent indiv. coffee cake (round) rationalizing abt pancakes if he could digest them early (confusion) after someone’s passing (his own–confusion) shadowy image of him at desk no one else in house–

Cornell would hate this publication, with his love of privacy and squeamishness about his personal life. But of course, he was also a glamour-hog, and in a way he was always creating his own dreams to share with the world.

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