Dreaming About Books
I hope no trick cyclists or shrinks are reading, because I’ve a feeling I might be about to give away more about myself than I intend. You see not only do books fill a considerable portion of my waking life but, even when I am asleep, they haunt me, pleasantly in the main, like the familiar old ghosts in the family mansion, but they haunt me.
Occasionally, like anyone who looks at a lot of books, I come across something really interesting that nobody else has noticed; going through a bulk lot at an auction, picking up a book at random in my own work-room or killing time in a shop where the stock normally only makes me wonder why anyone published these books in the first place. When you pick up that special book, a signed Henry James perhaps or a Seventeenth Century book you have read about but never seen, it glows and, entranced, you experience pure bliss. But what are these finds in the wakening world compared to those in the world of dreams? Haven’t you pushed open the door of the dusty shop, far off the beaten track, and seen them? In the dim light shelf upon shelf of untouched gems waiting for you; the first book you take down and blow the dust from is a beautifully bound early volume of poetry, cautiously you pull out a folio from the bottom shelf and as you flick the pages you see engraving after engraving. A case full of Nineteenth Century cloth contains perfect copies of the books you have never seen without tears and stains and there are bound volumes of pamphlets from which no impious hand has torn the rarities. Towering up to the ceiling are rows of books that look even more interesting and which you itch to get down. The prices too are, unlike many waking experiences, easily affordable.
But there’s a catch that reoccurs in my dream: feeling in my back pocket I find one ten pound note: they don’t take Credit Cards the ghostly figure behind the till tells me, and the shop closes in twenty minutes.
This just gives me time to run to a bank, draw out my life’s savings and buy a taxi full of these wonderful books. With a last lingering look at the shelves I run out of the door. It is almost dark outside and I hurry back to the main street, where I can find every type of shop; butchers and bakers and - who knows?- candlestick makers, but not a bank. Ten minutes have gone by. I ask for directions, but no one seems to understand me, until, finally, a passer-by waves their hand, pointing far down the street. Sweating now, I dodge cars and pedestrians and finally find a cash machine. The woman in front of me seems to be running an international corporation and more minutes tick by while she completes her innumerable transactions.
Now I have the wad of banknotes in my hand and sprint back down the street, past the shops, chest pounding, but at the other end of the street I am not certain which turning to take:
“Bookshop. The bookshop!” I shout at startled people, but they shake their heads and hurry away from me.
I run up and down, one road after another, stop and gaze round in the yellow light from the street lamps, but nothing: the shop has disappeared, and with it the wonderful books.