Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Daniel QuinnPublisher: Daniel Quinn
Author: Daniel QuinnPublisher: Daniel Quinn
The world-renowned author Daniel Quinn’s deep-seated interest in abstract expressionism, which first came to light most clearly in his 1988 novel, Dreamer, has once again come to the fore in the reissuing of this cult classic. Despite his intentions that were voiced most adamantly up until a decade ago that he was not overly keen on having the work republished, undoubtedly at least in part being due to its fairly sluggish initial reception, he has now allowed it to be so, as a result of his urging from his strong fan base, which has largely been drawn to his work by his much more widely acclaimed, Turner-award winning novel Ishmael.
Unlike the serious, educative effort of said later novel, Quinn’s debut novel is more of a deeply disturbing psychological thriller, in which the major protagonist drifts from sleeping into waking and back again in a cycle of deepening despair and soul-searching. Having much in common with two of Quinn’s later novels, The Holy and After Dachau, the anguish experienced by Greg Donner (his subconscious self, revealed in sleep) embodies the existentialist negativity and sense of destructive psychosis that beleagues and belabours modern man, in his search for self and integrity. The identity of Richard Iles (the protagonist’s waking self) is held captive, firstly, by his turbulent marriage to the emotionally draining and demanding Ginny Winters, and, secondly, by his incarceration in a sanatorium for those suffering from emotional and mental breakdowns. But who is Greg Donner, and who is he not? As his sleeping and waking personae mesh into one, and nightmare seems to become his everyday existence, the real person struggles to emerge from the imagined one, bringing a realisation of being to the central character that is both insightful and intriguing.
The disillusionment of Greg with Ginny forms an integral element of the plot, unravelling as Greg’s own psyche appears to crumble under the many societal blows that it has to endure. Starting out with the intentions of a highly romanticised, but devastatingly unrealistic and naive, lover, Greg voices his doubts even as he robotlike utters hackneyed phrases that, in actual fact, express the failure of the two to relate meaningfully on a deeper level: ‘“I mean, you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, and the apple of my eye, and my everything, and all that other stuff...”’ Dreamer should find resonance with any reader feeling that their life is being pulled apart by the many stresses inflicted on it within a contemporary urban setting.
Set in Chicago, in which city Quinn spent over two decades working in editing and publishing prior to his completion of the novel, Dreamer is imbued with the spirit of the place, to which reference is made throughout the novel, but which exemplifies any modern, over-commercialised city in America. Its “dark, deserted streets” bear echoes of other crass cities that essentially rob one of one’s soul if one fails to have the presence of mind to resist their undermining of the spiritual components of one’s being. In a sense, Dreamer figures forth the Everyman of the modern day, and thus has relevance for all those living within a Westernised environment and milieu.
The economic collapse of the presentday world, concomitant with the shattering of the dreams of so many, has come to make Dreamer as relevant today as it was when first issued over two decades ago. Perhaps it is now that its importance as a seminal novel of provocative thought and questioning of the existing status quo will be recognised, in keeping with Ellen Datlow’s listing of it as one of the year’s best in her annual review of works of fantasy and horror, and its inclusion in the New York Review of Science Fiction’s “Horror at the End of the Century.”
Follow Here To Purchase Dreamer