Six or so years ago I had the chance to talk with Yann Martel at a private party in Moncton. He’d taken part in a Frye Festival event – a fall Community Read around The Life of Pi – and knowing his background in philosophy I asked him a question. See, he’d asked if I wrote and it turned out I did (surprise) and in fact my first book was to come out in a couple of months. What’s it about? I told him it was simply a book of dreams presented as a novel, though length wise and style wise it was closer to a book of prose poems. He asked if they were actual dreams or fictional dreams and I wondered aloud if there was a difference then specifically posed a question: If my book’s content is pretty much verbatim (?) accounts of dreams, dreams whose content I didn’t consciously create, is this then a work of fiction or non-fiction? Or do we need another category? He thought for a minute.
But you chose what to write down, how to write it, present it, so it’s fiction, he said.
I may have nodded (slowly).
I still think it needs its own category. Why? Because though I chose the ordering of the words, I didn’t choose the who, the what, the where (yet, who else chose those? ). I had been dreaming of the same event (break up) and person (S.) for over a year as if my mind had decided to take a vacation from reality, “I like it better here”, or was on some obsessive quest for explanations.
After playing with the idea of including these dreams in the novel I wanted to write (I’d been noting the dreams in my e-journal, or on paper in the middle of the night, sometimes just a few lines), I wondered how a novel of dreams would read/feel. Maybe it was record keeping, too. I sold the idea, literally, to friends, supporters, wrote till the dreams stopped, printed and hand bound 26 subscriber copies of “S. a novel in [xxx] dreams”, had a launch and thought that would be the end of it (and it was the end of the dreams, fortunately). But one of the subscribers was a reader for a publisher (Broken Jaw press), talked up the manuscript, and long story short a couple of years later it appeared again.
To this date the one book I didn’t intend for publication is the one book I’ve had published. Sadly I had little means to promote it at the time, and it’s a bit of an odd sell, and the publisher was barely hanging on, had no distribution, so even though only 400 copies appeared, I doubt more than half have been moved. Those who have read it, however, have experienced it the way I hoped: puzzled, amused, moved, frustrated, wanting more yet strangely satisfied…
When I was writing the book, the title kept changing – 40 dreams, 50 dreams, 60 dreams – so I just wrote “[xxx] dreams” after a while. The final count, I believe, is 69.
Interested in a copy? Click the image of the book, or write me. There are some kind reviews on Goodreads, too.