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My Dream About Updike

I’ve won a dubious literary contest of some kind and the prize is that John Updike will come and stay at my house for a weekend and help me with my writing. I’m sitting in the living room scribbling down some writing project ideas at the last minute (ill-prepared) when he arrives at the door. I let him in, distractedly, still working on my list, and continue working on it as he shows himself into the kitchen. He’s carrying two big dishes of food covered with plastic wrap. Like something you’d bring to a church potluck. Finally I put down my pen and paper and join him in the kitchen.

“You didn’t have to bring food!” I say, “Philip Roth wouldn’t have brought food.”

This seems like an incredibly clever thing to say and breaks the ice quite nicely, I’m thinking.

Comments

  1. Did you see the movie “The Aristocrats”? I was totally scandalized and I don’t recommend it (there was something spiritually dark about the film). But, it was an interesting and hilarious documentary about 100 comedians doing a variation on one old vaudville joke. Anyway, you can do variations on this dream.

  2. Since you asked ….

    Actually, you didn’t, but since you bothered to write it all down and post it, I’ll don my technicolor dreamcoat and do my best to interpret it. Take it all with a grain of salt.

    “I’ve won a dubious literary contest of some kind and the prize is that John Updike will come and stay at my house for a weekend and help me with my writing.”

    All this points towards a number of possiblities. Perhaps the whole enterprise of literary creation is dubious, since one way of looking at it is to say that it all boils down to one big popularity contest? But that may be a bit of my own ‘prizes be damned’ attitude towards the literary/entertainment world. Two: perhaps John Updike is a somewhat dubious figure in the dream? I think you’ve read a lot more Updike than I have, but that may again be my own business (although I’m a fan of several of his novels, I don’t look at him as a literary father figure in the say way you do [at least I think you might]). This would seem to jibe with your somewhat diffident attitude towards U. in the second and third sentences.

    “He’s carrying two big dishes of food covered with plastic wrap. Like something you’d bring to a church potluck.”

    Hmm. The food could be a communion of some kind. Updike isn’t Catholic is he? Could there be something of a religious conflict here? Are they leftovers? Or is the food representative of literary creation? Perhaps you feel you are working with the leftovers of Updike’s literary creations? Could ‘church potluck’ mean some kind of ecumenical gathering, and could you perhaps be trying to work with your own Protestant beginnings? With Updike as a guide?

    “Finally I put down my pen and paper and join him in the kitchen.”

    Well, this would indicate that the food has nothing to do with literary creation. Two different rooms, two different activities. As you recall the dream, does one room or one activity seem to be privilged over the other? Could the food represent communion (or religion in general) as *opposed* to literary creation?

    “You didn’t have to bring food!” I say, “Philip Roth wouldn’t have brought food.”

    Continuing with a religious interpretation, could this be your way of telling Mr. U. that you have the religious thing figured out for yourself (and that what you need him for is help with the literary stuff in the next room)? I don’t recall you ever mentioning Roth before, but perhaps it’s possible that he represents the Jewish angle on monotheism? This would be one way of looking at his presence, if you haven’t invested much time with his books. Religiously speaking, Judaism doesn’t “feed you”, perhaps? Or, if it is a reference to his book, perhaps it means that his stories don’t “feed” you in the same way that Updike’s do?

    “This seems like an incredibly clever thing to say and breaks the ice quite nicely, I’m thinking.” Hmm. Not at all sure what to make of this. Updike certainly does read Roth, and I believe thinks rather highly of him, so maybe this is a way of stating your own estimation of Roth’s literary value? Or, again, the fact that his religion doesn’t feed you. Why it should break the ice nicely, I’m not sure, unless perhaps you’ve picked up on some anti-Roth sentiments in Updike that I’m not aware of? It’s tough to say.

    That’s my best shot. I think I favor the religious interpretation, with literary creation being perhaps a secondary theme – but then again, the two threads are intertwined for me, and I can’t really say I think of one as more important than the other (which is perhaps one of my issues). But as I said, take it all with a grain of salt.

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    And it’s good to have you back!

  4. Jonathan Webb says

    I too have an interpretation of the dream, but unlike QQ I don’t have to guess.

    The bottom line is that Updike is the real father of your literary self. The plate of food is his Congregationalist light saber–NOT A SACRAMENT!, but a weapon of death wealded by church ladies through the ages.

    By going into the kitchen you have turned to the dark side of violence rooted in fear rooted in anger. The contest was a contest for your soul. The missing character is a half pint sage named Yoda (Holland) because you have already turned to the dark side by killing the younglings (abandoning your novel).

    Then again, I think QQ might be right.

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