All your life you're dreaming

Peter Parker tags along on some nocturnal excursions; The Tiger Garden: A Book of Writers' Dreams edited by Nicholas Royle, Serpent's Tail, pounds 9.99

A sure way of making people's eyes glaze over is to announce: "I had the most extraordinary dream last night". Yet to the dreamer these nocturnal excursions are extraordinary. They both suggest a life beyond the quotidian and reveal imaginative powers many people would be unable to access when awake. Writers might be thought to have a particularly interesting library of dreams and, more importantly, ought to be able to recount them with skill.

Nicholas Royle had the clever idea of inviting over 200 writers to send him accounts of their dreams. No one was paid and all royalties go to Amnesty International, an organisation which spends much of its time attempting to alleviate waking nightmares. "In a bid to retain the oneiric atmosphere," he writes, "I have allowed those dreams scribbled down in haste to remain...as a result, there will be infelicities of language, there will be syntactical short-cuts, there will be liberties taken which these writers would not dream of taking in fiction." The problem with many contributions, however, is not that they have been dashed off but that they lack style. With some notable exceptions, there is not a great deal here that is interesting as writing. This might not matter if all the contributors were celebrated figures: even the hastily scribbled dreams of Doris Lessing, Will Self, Christine Brooke-Rose, Michael Ondaatje, William Wharton and Hilary Mantel would be worthwhile. There are many more well-known writers here, but an equal, if not greater, number of names unfamiliar outside genre fiction. One would think that writers of SF, fantasy and horror would be particularly good at dreams, but this proves not always to be the case.

In the wonderful introduction to Behold, this Dreamer!, his classic 1939 anthology of dreams and related subjects, Walter de la Mare warned that "waking recollection" of a night's travels into unknown realms "is difficult to translate into those obstinate and artificial symbols, words". Some of Royle's contributors (Nicholas Freeling, Giles Gordon) try too hard, some hardly at all. Fortunately, others have overcome the difficulty triumphantly. Desmond Hogan's recurring dream of Nazi persecution and ghostly children has been made into a beautifully shaped short story; Liza Cody's vision of a hospital where the uniquely warm blood of Sephardic Jews is drained into a central-heating system in order to coddle the premature twins of the Empress of China is very well recounted and authentically bizarre; Patrick McGrath's four sentences about falling into the carcass of a chicken the size of a house is alone worth the cover price.

Jack Kerouac's observation that "the fact that everybody in the world dreams every night ties all mankind together" provides Royle with an apt epigraph. It is reassuring to learn, for example, that even famous people dream of famous people. Robert Browning, Paul McCartney, Eric Cantona, Tony Curtis, Anthony Burgess (with boyfriend), Picasso and Dvork (duetting) and Salvador Dali all put in cameos. Michael Carson and Bernard MacLaverty dream of royalty, while D.J. Taylor dreams of A.S. Byatt, who is unable to return the compliment, dreaming instead of Iris Murdoch. (By way of compensation, Taylor appears in the dreams of the editor.)

Contributors relive unfortunate episodes from their past. Louis de Bernieres returns to Sandhurst; Jonathan Coe is still playing keyboards with The Peer Group. Suspiciously few admit to any sexual episodes - not even Fiona Pitt-Kethley.

"Dreams, alas, resemble far too frequently a tale told by an idiot" wrote de la Mare, "signifying even less than the literature he may reserve for his noonday." While The Tiger Garden reveals less of the creative processes than its publisher claims, it is nevertheless an oddly beguiling, and beguilingly odd, collection.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee