Dreaming of Drowning

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I guess I’m like a  lot of people. I love stories so much, I’ll take them in any format. I’ll read the books, I’ll see the movies, I’ll listen to the elderly man in the park tell his tale, I’ll read the message on the wall.

I remember some graffiti I saw on a wall in Coney Island one winter when I used to live on the East Coast. The beach was deserted and cold and the message on the wall read, “Did you ever dream you were drowning?”

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It made me recall a weird recurring dream I used to have where I  crouched on the bottom of the sea with tons of ocean above and all around me. It made me want to write something. Or read something. Or go see a movie.  I enjoy being shoved off balance sometimes. I love a jolt of stark imagery. I love being slapped in the face with it.

Go ahead, slap me. I can take it.

If you’re like me, this bunch of books may give you that special literary spanking you may desire. I know you know the movies already, so just in case you didn’t know their counterparts existed, here they are:

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I haven’t seen “Atonement,” but the book of the same title by Ian McEwan was beautifully written, the story dark, troubling, the entire premise stemming from and teetering on and around one simple lie.

The story was like picking your way over stepping stones, distancing yourself further and further from the opposite shore where happiness was but unable to stop because you’d already come this far…

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Everyone must have seen “The Color Purple” by now, but I can’t imagine many reading Alice Walker’s book. It’s a rough read: the first paragraph immediately deals with rape; possibly incestuous at that.  But if you can pull your way through it, it’ll leave you exhaling with that kind of satisfied exhaustion that seems so rare today.

 

 

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” is exactly as exhausting as “The Color Purple,” but for different reasons. Namely because it’s the end of the world.

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If you can don yourself in mental and emotional battle armor beforehand, the simple language of this post-Apocalyptic book will lead you in a straight line to one of the most beautiful closing paragraphs ever written, in my humble opinion.

 

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The movie “Under the Skin” was extremely disturbing, so for those who would like more, read the novel by Michel Faber. Faber’s language shines, as can be seen, for example, here: “Even in the nacreous hush of the winter dawn, when the mists were still dossed down in the fields on either side, the A9 could not be trusted to stay empty for long.”

The novel brims with details the film had no room for, fleshing out the personalities and nefarious activities of characters so that they’re not such a complete and utter mystery.

 

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Remember “Deliverance”? When I finally read the book, I was completely caught off guard by its lyricism. But that was sadly just ignorance on my part, not knowing that author James Dickey was a poet. His marriage of masculine macho with iambic pentameter sensibilities is awe- inspiring.

One of his quotes is: I want a fever, in poetry: a fever, and tranquility.

That almost perfectly summarizes the feeling for me. A fever is a more gentle way of saying, “I want a slap in the face,” a more subtle way of expressing the desire to be roused from a semi-slumber by something bigger than myself, something icy cold or burning hot, something paralyzing or comic or tragic.

Something that makes you dream that you’re drowning.

 

 

19 thoughts on “Dreaming of Drowning

  1. Apparently back in 1998, the editors of the Modern Library selected Deliverance as #42 on their list of the 100 best 20th-Century novels.I haven’t read it but the 1972 movie is amongst my all-time favourites.

    This post from you Stacey was so dream-like and full of wonder for great books and sublime authors. I really enjoyed reading it, including the pictures you added.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Glen. I appreciate it! Also, interesting fact about Deliverance being in a good spot on a list of 100 best 20th century novels–although I’m not surprised. What a verbal feast Dickey offered, and fully satisfying.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read The Color Purple in school, probably aged 15/16. An amazing story, beautifully written. I’m not sure kids these days are trusted to read such an adult novel, which is a shame. This is a classic. I remember reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry in the same term.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I think I was older than that when I read it–probably college. I think you’re right about kids today: it might be too much for the somewhat *soft* social media generations coming up behind us! 🙂 Oddly, though, I did read I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing when I was a teenager, which makes me wonder why Color Purple came many years later…..
      Oh, well. Better late than never.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It is a close contest, isn’t it? John Boorman, of course, knew what he was doing as director. And I thought it was one of Burt Reynolds’ best roles. Hmm….now I’m wondering about Dickey and other novels too…….
    Ciaosky!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, so so sad, Atonement. Under the Skin isn’t hardcore sci-fi, but it’s sort of urban sci-fi with a societal message built in (the book, not the movie). And The Road, of course, is post-apocalyptic fiction, which some call sci-fi. But it’s uber-realistic with no relief in sight.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much, Henry! You’ve brightened my day! And night! (Since it’s night now.) Yeah, wake up calls, jump starts, nudges, reminders…we need ’em like air and water, I think.

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  6. Cool, Rakkelle! Yeah, if you’re not into post-apocalyptic or sci-fi, the last two won’t be too appealing, although I think they’re pretty compelling in their own right. It IS a dream, isn’t it, to even approach how good they are? I think having the passion to begin with is a good start! 🙂

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  7. Hi again, Kev.
    Yeah, I agree about McEwan. Mm…………….
    I think you’d like Under the Skin. It’s actually a statement about classism, among other things “societal”, believe it or not!
    Just wrapped in a strange package.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Exactly. I still remember the start of “Blood Meridian” from reading it many years ago: “Ah, God, the stars…”
    Wish I could have a couple of beers with McCarthy in a bar…….

    Liked by 1 person

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