One of the perils of writing novels is that your subconscious eventually jumps into the business as well. In the end, you’ll get to dream a novel every blessed night. These are detailed novels, not any old short story. They swarm with characters and are intricately plotted with several subplots surging in the background. I am not talking about those woolly dreams of fuzzy faces. For instance, I won’t dream of a mysterious man in green-sunglasses. I’d dream of Paulinus Moha Dunka, 36-year-old husband of a former Women’s Affairs Minister whose children are members of the boy-band, The Catastrophes…
In the early days I used to be quite chuffed by these B novels that fall in my lap every night. No more.
I think it is rather sad of course, this rivalry. One would expect one’s own subconscious to get behind him and identify with his own novels-in-progress. In the old days, I went to bed nursing a plotting crisis and woke up with a ten-second dream that provided a logical solution.
The days of playing second fiddle are gone. These days, I have a prima donna of a subconscious who will not stoop to finish my short stories or lend insight to my poetry. Oh no. He will write his own tomes. Perhaps he expects me to drop everything and put words to his frankly forgettable novels. Alright, perhaps not forgettable. After all, the fine details of his novelistic efforts do stay with me for days and days, staining the retina of my mental eyes with his imaginative world… perhaps pedestrian is the more apposite word.
I used to consider these dreamnovels grist for the literary mill. Back then, I’d go to sleep with a note book waiting by my bedside. I’d wake up a couple of hours earlier than my alarm clock, the better to start writing the nightly novel.
Problem is… with an incontinent novelist in the saddle, in only a few weeks you end up with quite a few unfinished novels. It takes a pretty long time to finish writing up a four-hour dream, you see. Recall how quickly Lord of the Rings played at the cinema. Plus, my subconscious is not a terribly original writer. He’s just another hack who reads my stories and goes: what dross! I can do better! and goes on to churn out another doorstop.
These days, frankly, when I go to sleep, I’d rather just sleep.
I finished writing this entry somewhere around midnight and went to back to sleep for a spell. I woke up at 4.30am. As usual I had just dreamt a novel, except that this was one with a difference. Was this a cliffhanger or what? Pedestrian is certainly not the word for this searing literary thriller that morphed halfway through into contemporary chic horror. It had everything that my old dreamnovels lacked: the electricity that sent your heart pounding and your fingers reaching for the bedside laptop – which was nowhere at hand! I woke in a cold sweat with a cry on my lips – the suspense, the… the unforgettable characters –
Unfortunately I share the same brain with The Big Sulk himself. In perverse revenge, all I can remember of the dreamnovel is the emotion it evoked. I’d gladly drop everything and write it up. It would doubtlessly have put Stephen King and Gao Xingjian out of business for a season or two. Alas I have only that tantalizing face of my heroine, Prensalla Ogam, sitting on the dark rooftop of her Kinshasa house (why and how she got there, I cannot quite recall) waiting with the torn nightdress with which she planned to throttle her thrice-married and twice-divorced husband (but she does not, eventually… or does she now…)
All of which goes to show that you don’t go around slagging off your subconscious without expecting a comeback. Fine. I’ll go on record: he’s the better writer. Perhaps now I can get either some sleep or a useful memory of a decent novel.