Thursday, March 31, 2011

No one wrote this book

 I bought the above book years ago primarily because Edward Gorey (whom I love) illustrated it, and because it sounded superficially amusing. I didn't realize when I initially purchased it how genuinely amazing it is nor how much it would come to mean to me. As the subtitle indicates, this book (which was published in the early 60s) contains transcripts of bona fide sleep-talking by one Dion McGregor, an exceptionally odd person who spent his days writing off-Broadway musicals and his nights, well, talking in his sleep. His roommate began recording his nocturnal monologues for a lark, word got around, and, voila!, this book was born. His speeches are often darkly funny and bizarre, well-suited for Gorey's pen-and-ink accompaniment. The dreams are generally related in the first person, and the tone is hilarious: arrogant, childish, and petulant. Topics range from meeting aliens to apprehending a pyromaniac to arranging a party game of the author's invention called "Movie Screeno" ("Oh, everything we've done has been spied on. They know our Movie Screeno secrets. Ugh! Oh, Movie Screeno secrets!"). One dream is entirely in rhyme; one is in two parts, the second being a seamless continuation from a separate night. The endings often have a surprise twist, which is pure genius if it they were indeed improvised completely. The book is occasionally difficult to get a hold of, but one can easily purchase the actual audio recordings online, which are amazing in their own way.

The first "story" in the book, called "Pioneer," is from the perspective of a man who has unwittingly started a series of fads, like going barefoot in the city in the summer and bringing along a camping stool to sit on in the subway ("What does it matter...people are dull. Yes... they'll soon be doing something everyone else is doing... and so will I... 'cept I'll start it. I shall start it"). The ending of this story is pretty dark, and I've always found it extremely poignant, no matter how many times I read it. One line in particular brought me to tears the first time I read it, for reasons I can't quite articulate.  "Now I'm not touched by a magic anything! No, it's just people are sheep. Oh, sheep people. That's it. People want to follow." 

My terrible photographs (I need a scanner) don't do justice at all to how cool and striking the cover design is. Even if its contents were not incredibly beautiful, its cover alone is reason enough to covet this book. Incidentally, the introduction is written by someone named, enigmatically, Valentine Wolf Zeitlin, MD, another excellent selling point.

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