Saturday, 8 September 2018

Back to School

Well, we survived! The first week back has been and gone and that awful transition from summer holidays to schooldays is a memory.

I always used to dream, as a teacher, of writing books in the six weeks holidays. It never happened. I also used to have the ubiquitous anxiety dreams about the classroom before the new term, dreams in which bells ring but you don't know where you are, classes you aren't prepared for appear and - worst of all - kids suddenly stop listening to a word you're saying.

Now I'm a writer I seem to have started having anxiety dreams about books. To whit, my next book, The Glorious Dead, which is out in just under two months time.

In last night's version publication day had come and gone but the book was missing. I went looking for it - at the printer's, the publisher's, I'm not quite sure where - and it eventually emerged but with a different cover and in a dreadful state.

I'm not a Freudian. The manifest content of the dream is obvious and I don't think there's any more to say than that. It's the season, the back-to-school season, for anxiety dreams and I'm having them.

Only now, they're about books. I suppose you could argue that it's somehow symbolic of something but - like the classroom dreams I used to have - they seem fairly easy to explain without recourse to repressed instincts or memories or forbidden desires.

One key element in Freud's dream theory is the concept of wish-fulfillment. But I certainly don't (secretly or not) want publication day to go anything other than smoothly, so how do you explain that?

I'm not sure he (Freud) can. He tries by claiming the latent content (missing, damaged books) is symbolic of something - something morally questionable, to say the least.

So my anxiety dream of books might be a sign of my repressed desire to... what? Answers on a postcard, please!

In other news I've recently finished reading an excellent book on the Iliad. Having taught the poem to an A level group last year (and written a brief study-guide to it) I've become more and more obsessed with it and constantly amazed by its relevance. The treatment of the war dead chimes well with my latest book, of course. And in  Achilles in Vietnam by U.S. psychiatrist Jonathan Shay uses Homer as a starting point to examine combat trauma.

It's a fascinating read, combining two of my current all-consuming interests: psychology and epic poetry and is highly recommended for anyone (if there is anyone?) out there with similar interests.


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