BOOK REVIEW: Frank Pe’s Little Nemo by Frank Pé

Frank Pe's Little NemoFrank Pe’s Little Nemo by Frank Pé
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

This is a comic strip character / concept redux of material created in the early 20th century by Winsor McCay. It features surreal scenes from the dreamworld of an imaginative and sleepy boy. The artwork of Frank Pé’s revisitation of Nemo’s dreams is stunningly beautiful and brilliantly creative. But…

I would argue that it’s not a good children’s book for two reasons. First, there are a few panels that are likely to prompt questions / conversations that most parents probably don’t want to deal with during story-time. In particular, there’s some prominent cigarette and smoking imagery. It does contribute to the book’s retro feel. When the original strip came out in 1905, there was probably lots of smoking in it (maybe even some product placement advertising by tobacco companies,) but by today’s standards it’s conspicuous and controversial. I won’t get into the few other questionable frames, but they exist. (Though most of it is perfectly kid-friendly.)

Second, there is a segment or two that use vocabulary that will send many parents to the dictionary just to be able to decipher the speaker’s comments for their child. This is a shame because it’s not this way throughout the book. As with the questionable art, most of the book is perfectly manageable as a children’s book. I’m not sure whether Pé was seeking to be true to the original, or whether he thought it was fitting for a children’s book, but with relatively few edits I think it would be much more suitable for children.

For adults who are interested comic strips (historically or artistically,) I’d highly recommend this book. For those considering it as a book for a child, I’d consider whether some grandiloquent vocabulary and a provocative frame or two are troubling, and decide accordingly.

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Dream Door [Triolet]

I dreamt the door looked out upon treetops
and I could walk out on blue sky and cloud
and see the world as would a tall cyclops.
I dreamt the door looked out upon treetops,
but in my dream I plunged into the copse.
Sky walking proved more dream than was allowed.
I dreamt the door looked out upon treetops,
but could I walk out to blue sky and cloud?

POEM: Sleep [PoMo Day 8 – Rondeau Tercet]

In haunted hours, I wilt to sleep,
and know that I'll be cursed in dreams.
I'll drift upon Stygian streams
at speeds between trickle and creep,
listening for some distant screams.

In haunted hours, I wilt to sleep,
and know that I'll be cursed in dreams
trapped down below the castle keep,
until the King should come to deem
me worthy of some healing dreams.

In haunted hours, I wilt to sleep,
and know that I'll be cursed with dreams,
drifting upon Stygian streams.

POEM: Faces & Places of My Dreams

I once read that one never dreams:
-a place one hasn’t been, or
-a face one hasn’t seen.

This is either false, or
I’ve been a lot of places:
-of which I’ve no waking recollection,
-which don’t exist in my photos, and
-which no one ever asks me,
“Do your remember that place…”

I’m less confident that my mind generates faces —
except that I’ve dreamt featureless faces, and
I’ve sure never seen one of those while awake.

But, given that a blonde wig on a brunette actress is
— apparently —
enough to keep me from identifying her,
I can’t be certain that I dream faces,
faces I’ve never seen in the real world —
and there have been oh so many faces.

POEM: Dream Envy [A Sestina]

In dreams, I lived in the mountains,
but my home was in a bled swamp.
Did highlanders dream of wet feet?
Or does dream envy flow one-way?
Could my life be one’s serene dream?
Why not? Dreams are built on nonsense.

But there’re fatal forms of nonsense —
like drowning in a vast mountain.
Who knows what will come in a dream?
One might fall off the fetid swamp
because down isn’t always the way —
if nothing pulls up on your feet.

I can’t say for sure I’ve dream feet.
“Now, you’re really talking nonsense!”
Tzu’s butterfly taught me the Way.
Maybe I’m in swampy mountains,
or, perhaps, a mountainous swamp
They’re the same — all places but a dream.

This conversation is a dream —
yet, I feel floor beneath my feet.
Or am I knee deep in the swamp?
Sense is starting to make nonsense.
I can’t be far from the mountains,
though I’m not sure I know the way.

The way? Or the Way? or the WAY!
Who can say, it is just a dream?
Dream mountains are not real mountains —
no more than a real feat is dream feet.
Don’t claim I’m hemorrhaging nonsense
because I’m in my happy swamp.

The swamp that’s known isn’t the true swamp.
The whey that’s unweighed isn’t the Way!
Nonsense that makes sense is nonsense.
That’s true in life, but in a dream?
Am I in bed, or on my feet?
Or falling from a snowy mountain?

All nonsense isn’t found in your dreams.
We slog the swamp and find the Way.
Swampy feet, head in the mountains.

BOOK REVIEW: Tremor Dose by Michael Conrad

Tremor Dose (comiXology Originals)Tremor Dose by Michael Conrad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon.in page

 

Full disclosure: I love trippy, mind-bending stories that use strategic ambiguity to keep one guessing about what’s truly happening. This is that type of story. The setup is brilliant and gets the book off to a captivating start. A college-aged girl is talking to some type of researchers, describing her dreams. The intriguing bit is that we find out that a man appears in this girl’s dream, and that what drew her to the research institute was a flyer with the man’s picture on it and a heading that read “Have you dreamed this man?” That had me hooked. Is this a Freddy Kruger scenario? Something else? I didn’t know, but I wanted to.

While this is a type of story I enjoy, it’s also a subgenre that’s easy to foul up. Capturing the unique logic and illogic of dreams is no simple task. Too ordered and dream becomes indistinguishable from base reality. Too bizarre and it becomes more of an acid trip than a dream. Then there is the challenge of balancing the maintaining of consistency with keeping the reader guessing. There is definitely a varied level of surrealism across the various dreams, but I can’t say I was bothered by this. Actually, the nature of comic is conducive to conveying some elements of a dream state even in a realistic setting – i.e. we pick up in the middle of events and jump from one locale to the next in different panels.

I felt “Tremor Dose” did pretty well with these issues. When I was perusing reviews, considering reading this book, I noticed a few comments about pacing issues at the end. I can definitely see people’s problems with regards to pacing, and I think it is largely a matter of the type of story being told. By that I mean, because one is trying to figure out what is base reality, if there is a base reality, when the climax and resolution are compressed it feels rushed because one’s mind is so engaged with trying to piece together what is happening. I don’t think the flow would have been as much of a problem. [One might reasonably ask whether this is something I would have noticed if I hadn’t seen it mentioned? Possibly not, but I think so. When I got to the end-reveal, I found myself stopping to think about whether the end made sense / was consistent with the story up to that point. I think that’s what creates the rushed feel is that one has to stop to mull rather than reading through it.]

The artwork is unique. It’s pencil-drawn and is not like what one typically sees in graphic novels. I don’t really know anything about comic art, and, so suffice it to say, the drawings weren’t distracting nor did they leave me confused. That’s about all I ask for in graphic novel artwork.

I enjoyed this story, and if you like stories that move in and out of layers of dreams, you’ll likely find it a worthwhile read.

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POEM: Morpheus’ Shroud

Last night the drape was thin and billowy.
Dreams seen through the weep of a willow tree.
Shapes without texture, beings without plights.
A curtain of fog, turning days into nights.

I stood on a corner in the land of nod.
One not crossed in maps of men or gods.
And wondered whether I was found or lost.
Waiting in calm for a morrow tempest-tossed.

But morning light brought me no clarity.

BOOK REVIEW: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and DreamsWhy We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

 

For a long time, the questions of why we sleep and dream remained unanswered — or answered speculatively in ways that proved without merit. One presumes the reasons are potent because there seems to be little evolutionary advantage in spending a third of one’s life unconscious of one’s environs and paralyzed (literally in REM sleep, but for all intents and purposes in NREM sleep as one can’t respond to changes in the environment without some part of one’s brain taking note of said changes.) The good news is that Matthew Walker’s book offers insight into what scientists have learned about why we sleep, why we dream, why we become so dysfunctional without doing both, and what it is about modern life and its technologies that has created an apparent crisis of sleep loss. Walker goes beyond the science to discuss what individuals and institutions can do to reduce the harmful effects of sleep deprivation.

The downside of this book is that it’s a bit alarmist, and in contrast to many books of this nature one doesn’t get a good indication of the quality of studies reported. Some pretty brazen claims are made and the reader doesn’t necessarily know if they are preliminary and unvalidated or if they are well established. Here, I’m speaking about the studies that try to isolate out the effect of sleep loss versus all other factors (which is a notoriously messy affair,) and not so much studies that report on the physiological effects of sleep and sleep loss (which I see less reason to not take at face value.) At any rate, any reader who doesn’t fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow and sleep straight through 7 hours and fifty-five minutes — waking 5 minutes before the alarm — is likely to feel doomed if they take this book too seriously. And if you ever engaged in shift-work (as I have) or had an intense travel schedule, you are likely to feel that your life is permanently and irretrievably wrecked.

I know this is a book on sleep, but I think it went a little too far in marginalizing all other elements of health and well-being. Walker said that he used to tell people that sleep, nutrition, and exercise were the trifecta of good health, but he ultimately concluded that sleep was more important because diet and exercise were adversely impacted by sleep loss. I don’t disagree that diet and exercise are harmed by sleep loss, but – of course – sleep quality is harmed by lack of proper diet and exercise as well. The author later discusses research confirming this two-way street. I, therefore, have no idea why he changed his initial balanced and reasonable view with one that suggests sleep is the 800-pound gorilla of health and well-being.

The book’s 16 chapters are divided into four parts. Part I (Ch. 1 – 5) lays out what sleep is, how rhythms of sleep are established / disrupted, how much sleep one needs, and how one’s sleep needs change throughout the course of one’s life. Part II (Ch. 6 – 8) explores the benefits of sleeping as well as describing the nature of the damage caused by lack of sufficient sleep. Part III (Ch. 9 – 11) shifts the focus to dreams, and delves into what they appear to do for us. The final part (Ch. 12 – 16) investigates the many ways in which modern life disrupts sleep from blue light in LED’s to arbitrary school and work schedules to cures that are worse than the ill (i.e. sleeping pills.)

There is an appendix that summarizes twelve key changes that an individual can make to get more and better sleep. There are graphics throughout the book, mostly line-drawn graphs to provide visual clarity of the ideas under discussion.

I found this book interesting and informative. I would recommend it for anyone interested in the science of sleep or how they might sleep better, with the exception of anyone who has anxiety about the state of his or her health and well-being. While I understand that Dr. Walker wants to drive changes regarding views and policies that have been wrong-headed or deleterious regarding sleep, I feel he went too far toward suggesting the sky is falling for anyone who gets less than a perfect night’s sleep every night of his life.

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POEM: Faceless

the faceless, in my dreams, play at chores i can’t comprehend,

leaning over consoles  — big powerplant-style consoles,

neither typing nor jabbing buttons,

just sitting, attuned to the lay of the world according to indicator lights

i shout to them

of course, they can’t shout back

but they don’t even flinch

zero acknowledgement

i can’t tell if they have ear-holes,

whether they’re ignoring me, or can’t hear me

i guess i should consider myself lucky

if one turned its faceless face toward me

i’m sure i’d shit a dream brick

POEM: Same Dream in a Different Key

I have a recurring dream.

It never plays out the same,
never looks the same,
the setting differs,
and, besides me, the cast differs.

But it feels the same,
an identical nuance of feeling,
and there’s always a tower —
a high tower that I don’t think I ever top.
Sometimes, its a bamboo scaffold.
Other times, there’s gilt ornamentation around the elevators,
but there’s some common towericity… towerness?

There’s also a man on the tower who thinks himself a holy man,
but I think he’s a fraud.
I’m not sure whether I think he’s a fraud during the dream,
or only once I wake up.

But they say you are every person in your dream.
So, that makes me a fraud and a self-professed holy man,
but how can a person who never claims authenticity be a fraud?
I’m not sure what genuine means in this mysterious world,
and don’t get me started on what I don’t know about being a holy man.

I have a recurring dream.