What not to read for a good night’s sleep

I awoke this morning after nearly going over a frozen waterfall on an inflatable raft that was rapidly deflating. That wasn’t what jolted me awake. I had saved my late grandmother from drowning and was carrying her piggyback through a summer forest (with snow loading down the branches). Then I heard branches cracking ahead and knew it was carnivorous deer.

“What a wild dream,” you might think.

Not at all. I’ve been reading Gene Wolfe, and my dream has nothing on him.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson when reading Peace, his novel about a man who lives in a house in which room is a different era. The narrator alludes to the rooms being designed as additions to his house – not unlike the famous Winchester House – and to commemorate different times in his life. However, he could be a ghost in a house.

Yeah, trippy stuff.

Then I read his series “The Book of the New Sun.” It’s a travelogue of Severian, a man raised from infancy to be a torturer/executioner. It’s an in-demand job for the civilization barely hanging on as the sun dies. Plus there are extraterrestrials and animals re-established after extinction; e.g. dire wolves. As an added bonus, Severian is the future ruler of Urth and sleeps with everyone and his grandmother (oops, spoiled it).

So last night I started the short stories.

If you’re thinking, “That’s some messed up stuff,” it really isn’t. Wolfe writes beautiful descriptions of landscapes and creates interesting connections between characters so that it makes sense.

In fact, I think his landscapes are what inspired my dreams lately. I had one which mostly consisted of watching a large turtle – about the size of a round serving platter – slowly cross a sandy beach, then a damp sandbar, until it finally reached the water.  People were coming and going on the shore, and I even spent some time fishing – I could feel the weathered boards of the pier under my feet and smelled the old-fish-and-rubber-worms scent of the tackle box. The sun moved across the sky and was just setting when the turtle finally slipped into the water. I woke up quite pleased that he had made it.

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