BOOK REVIEW: Introducing Jung: A Graphic Guide by Maggie Hyde

Introducing Jung: A Graphic Guide (Introducing...)Introducing Jung: A Graphic Guide by Maggie Hyde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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I find Jung’s ideas fascinating. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe most of said ideas have scholarly merit, but they’re brilliantly creative and eccentric. Some will say this would’ve been a radically different book if it’d been written by a psychologist or the like (rather than by an astrologer.) I don’t disagree. It’d likely have focused more on his work in personality types and on the unconscious mind (i.e. the work that people in psychology still talk about, whether they like it or not,) and also probably would’ve barely footnoted his ideas about “the uncanny,” synchronicity, and astrology. In short, its priorities would’ve been reversed, and it’d be a book that’s more boring but more relevant to those who are interested in Jung’s long-run influence on psychiatry / psychoanalysis.

For my purposes, I prefer the book as it is. I shouldn’t give the false impression that the author only addresses Jung’s mysticism, or that she completely avoids pointing out where Jung’s ideas were controversial and what critiques were leveled against him. The book comes across as a serious description of Jung’s work (albeit focusing relatively intensely on dream analysis, collective consciousness, and the more out-there aspects of his work.) I will say, I’ve read a few books from this series now, and Hyde does seem more a cheerleader (less a dispassionate scholar) than most of the other authors. It’s fascinating to read about Jung’s criticism of Freud. Don’t get me wrong, I’d agree that Freud was sex-obsessed, but Jung’s accusations of Freud being too concerned with one ill-supported idea does create a bit of a pot / kettle situation.

I enjoyed this book. I found the descriptions of Jung’s ideas compelling, if unpersuasive. However, I’d argue that if you specifically want to know about what ideas are still being talked about in classrooms (mainstream, not the New Age-y ones,) there’re probably better books. However, if you’re curious about Jung the mystic, this is a great place to start.


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Jacob’s Ladder [Free Verse]

I'm dripping into midnight --
my world has disappeared.

My eyes crack to light and life,
but I forgot to hear --
remembering, 
the silence is broken 
& I hear a rhythmic clack.

But I can't help but wonder,
where it is that I'm at?

I'm at the bottom of a wooden staircase,
too steep to be sound,
looking up until perspective
makes the case vanishingly thin.

Should I climb the staircase?

What else can I do?

Will I wake
half way up,
and find myself
in the blue?

The laws of dreams force my hand,
I can't stand paralyzed,
and I'm halfway to infinity
by means that I know not. 

And I'm thinking of the line from that 
children's prayer:
"If I should die before I 'wake,"
and I think:

"What the hell is wrong with parents?"
that's the thought upon which you're going
to leave with your child
to "go to sleep?"

And you're wondering why the 
kid is up all night?

Because dying in one's sleep
doesn't start to seem
like a fine prospect
until one is an octogenarian. 

And so I sleep...

Dreams All the Way Down [Free Verse]

I awaken from a dream
within a dream,
and I'm still dreaming --

dreaming that I'm walking
with the others,
the others that I'm told
are all me,
walking in some vaguely familiar
exotic destination

Of course, I don't know I'm dreaming.

I did wake up after all,
but it turns out that

it's dreams all the way down.

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

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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

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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.