A Visual History
Wow, you’re not going to believe this, but I had a dream last night that I actually vaguely remembered this morning, and all I can remember of it is that I was Gary Glitter’s manager, and I mean manager of him now not in his heyday, and I was trying to get him live gigs in the UK, and no one wanted him for the obvious reason, and then at a certain point I realized that I was a 12-year-old Thai boy, and I told Gary that he probably would have a better chance getting gigs if his manager wasn’t a Thai boy whose very existence reminded the people running the venues of why giving him a gig was not the greatest idea in the world, at which point I realized that he was Pierre Guyotat not Gary Glitter, and that I had been fucking up his career by mistakenly telling people he was Gary Glitter, and I felt really bad but, at the same time, glad that I wasn’t Gary Glitter’s manager.
Josef K. was dreaming:
It was a beautiful day and K. wanted to go on a walk. But no sooner had he taken a few steps than he was already at the graveyard. Its paths were highly artificial, impractical in their windings, yet he glided along such a path as if hovering unshakeably over raging water. From far away, he spotted a freshly dug burial mound at which he wanted to halt. This burial mound exerted an almost enticing effect on him, and he felt he could not get there fast enough. At times, however, he could barely glimpse the mound, it was covered with flags that twisted and flapped powerfully against one another; the flag bearers could not be seen, but there appeared to be great rejoicing.
While his eyes were still riveted in the distance, he abruptly saw the burial mound next to the path–indeed almost behind him by now. He hastily leaped into the grass. Since the path continued rushing along beneath his feet as he leaped off, he staggered and fell to his knees right in front of the mound. Two men were standing behind the grave, holding a headstone between them in the air; the moment K. showed up, they thrust the stone into the earth, and it stood there as if cemented to the ground. Instantly, a third man emerged from the bushes, and K. promptly identified him as an artist. He was wearing only trousers and a misbuttoned shirt; a velvet cap was on his head; in his hand, he clutched an ordinary pencil, drawing figures in the air even as he approached.
He now applied this pencil to the top end of the stone; the stone was very high, he did not even have to lean down, but he did have to bend forward, since he did not wish to step on the burial mound, which separated him from the stone. So he stood on tiptoe, steadying himself by propping his left hand against the surface of the stone. Through some extremely skillful manipulation, he succeeded in producing gold letters with that ordinary pencil; he wrote: "Here LIES–––" Each letter came out clean and beautiful, deeply incised and in purest gold. After writing those two words, he looked back at K.; K., who was very eager to see what would come next in the inscription, gazed at the stone, paying little heed to the man. And in fact, the man was about to continue writing, but he could not, something was hindering him, he lowered the pencil and turned to K. again. This time, K. looked back at the artist, who, he noticed, was very embarrassed but unable to indicate the reason for his embarrassment. All his earlier liveliness had vanished. As a result, K. likewise felt embarrassed; they exchanged helpless glances; there was some kind of misunderstanding between them, which neither of them could clear up. To make matters worse, a small chime began tinkling inopportunely from the tomb chapel, but the artist waved his raised hand wildly, and the chime stopped. After a brief pause, it started in again; this time very softly and then promptly breaking off with no special admonition from him; it was as if it merely wanted to test its own sound. K. was inconsolable about the artist's dilemma, he began to cry, sobbing into his cupped hands for a long time. The artist waited for K. to calm down, and then, finding no other solution, he decided to keep writing all the same. His first small stroke was a deliverance for K., but the artist obviously managed to execute it only with utmost reluctance; moreover, the penmanship was not as lovely–above all, it seemed to lack gold, the stroke moved along pale and unsteady, only the letter became very large. It was a J, it was almost completed; but now the artist furiously stamped one foot into the burial mound, making the dark soil fly up all around. At last, K. understood him; there was no time left to apologize; with all his fingers he dug into the earth, which offered scant resistance; everything seemed prepared; a thin crust of earth had been set up purely for show; right beneath it a huge hole with sheer sides gaped open, and K., flipped over on his back by a gently current, sank into the hole. But while, with his head still erect on his neck, he was welcomed down below by the impenetrable depth, his name, with tremendous embellishments, rushed across the stone up above.
Enraptured by this sight, he woke up.
I dreamed I was sitting on a bench, in Baltimore, facing the tumbling fountain in Harlem Park, beside a woman who wore a veil. I had come there with her. She was somebody I knew well. But I had suddenly forgotten who she was. I couldn’t see her face because of the long black veil.
I thought that if I said something to her I would recognise her voice when she answered. But I was very embarrassed and was a long time finding anything to say. Finally I asked her if she knew a man named Carroll T. Harris.
She answered me, but the roar and swish of the tumbling fountain smothered her voice, and I could hear nothing.
Fire engines went out Edmondson Avenue. She left me to run after them. As she ran she cried, “Fire! Fire!” I recognised her voice then and knew who she was, and knew she was someone important to me. I ran after her, but it was too late. She and the fire engines were gone.
I walked streets hunting for her, half the streets in the United States. Gay Street and Mount Royal Avenue in Baltimore, Colfax Avenue in Denver, Aetna Road and St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland, McKinney Avenue in Dallas, Lemartine and Cornell and Amory Streets in Boston, Berry Boulevard in Louisville, Lexington Avenue in New York, until I came to Victoria Street in Jacksonville, where I heard her voice again, though I still could not see her.
I walked more streets, listening to her voice. She was calling a name, not mine, one strange to me, but no matter how fast I walked or in what direction, I could get no nearer her voice. It was the same distance from me in the street that runs past the Federal Building in El Paso as in Detroit's Grand Circus Park. Then the voice stopped.
Tired and discouraged, I went into the lobby of the hotel that faces the railroad station in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to rest. While I sat there a train came in. She got off it and came into the lobby, over to me, and began kissing me. I was very uncomfortable because everybody stood around looking at us and laughing.
That dream ended there.
I dreamed I was in a strange city hunting for a man I hated. I had an open knife in my pocket and meant to kill him with it when I found him. It was Sunday morning. Church bells were ringing, crowds of people were in the streets, going to and from church. I walked almost as far as in the first dream, but always in this same strange city.
Then the man I was after yelled at me, and I saw him. He was a small brown man who wore an immense sombrero. He was standing on the steps of a tall building on the far side of a wide plaza, laughing at me. Between us, the plaza was crowded with people, packed shoulder to shoulder.
Keeping one hand on the open knife in my pocket, I ran towards the little brown man, running on the heads and shoulders of the people in the plaza. The heads and shoulders were of unequal heights and not evenly spaced. I slipped and floundered over them.
The little brown man stood on the steps and laughed until I had almost reached him. Then he ran into the tall building. I chased him up miles of spiral stairway, always just an inch more than a hand's reach behind him. We came to the roof. He ran straight across to the edge and jumped just as one of my hands touched him.
His shoulder slid out of my fingers. My hand knocked his sombrero off, and closed on his head. It was a smooth hard round head no larger than a large egg. My fingers went all the way around it. Squeezing his head in one hand, I tried to bring the knife out of my pocket with the other–and realised that I had gone off the edge of the roof with him. We dropped giddily down towards the millions of upturned faces in the plaza, miles down.
I opened my eyes in the dull light of morning sun filtered through drawn blinds. I was lying face down on the dining-room floor, my head resting on my left forearm. My right arm was stretched straight out. My right hand held the round blue and white handle of Dinah Brand’s ice pick. The pick’s six-inch needle-sharp blade was buried in Dinah Brand’s left breast.
Dashiell Hammett, The Red Harvest
Last night I had the strangest dream sequence.
I couldn’t make out just what sort of a place it was that I was in. It seemed to be a gambling house, but there weren’t any walls, just a lot of curtains with eyes painted on them. A man was walking around with a large pair of scissors cutting all the drapes in half.
A girl came in with hardly anything on and started walking around the gambling room kissing everybody. She came to my table first. She looked a little like Ingrid Bergman.
I was sitting there playing cards with a man who had a beard. He said, “That makes 21–I win.” But when he turned up his cards, they were blank! Just then the proprietor came in and accused him of cheating.
I saw the man with the beard leaning over the sloping roof of a high building. I called out to him to watch out. But he went over–slowly–with his feet in the air.
I saw the proprietor again. He was hiding behind a tall chimney, and he had a small wheel in his hand. I saw him drop the wheel on the roof.
Then I was running and heard something beating over my head. It was a great pair of wings. They were chasing me and almost caught up with me when I came to the bottom of the hill. Then I woke up.
The funny thing is I kept thinking that all this meant something, that there was some other meaning in it that I ought to find out.