Though not in a league with those of Coleridge or Joyce, Greene's dreams compose an alternate autobiography of his private self in matter-of-factly unreal vignettes. Culled from the thick journals of his dreams that Greene (The Last Word, 1991, etc.) obsessively kept in his vigorous old age, and posthumously published in accordance with his expressed wish, this slim volume catalogs his adventures and escapades in what he called "My Own World," as opposed the shared reality of "The Common World." In these dreams, his encounters with the famous — Khrushchev, Edward Heath, Queen Elizabeth — often seem dull and ordinary; his travels possess only recycled verisimilitude compared to the Haiti, Vietnam, and Cuba we see in his novels; and his literary reveries betray an innocent craving for approval from the likes of Cocteau, D.H. Lawrence, and Sartre. The most curious and intriguing dreams magnify Greene's fantastic side and combine it with an uncharacteristically carefree humor. Those in which he is a criminal or a spy (in one, assigned to assassinate Goebbels with poisoned second-hand cigarette smoke) seem to parody his own semi-parodic thrillers. Some of the more surreal literary vignettes — a trip on a South American riverboat with Henry James; a guerrilla campaign with Evelyn Waugh against W.H. Auden — are hilarious pulp belles lettres. Larger issues of religion and imagination, however, are less amplified here than in his waking corpus and are typically reduced to altercations with sloppy priests or comments about the neurotic drudgery of producing books. The few brief examples of dream-inspiration and theophany are unsatisfactorily developed and give no real clue to his creative process or religious life. A uniquely candid self-portrait, but Greene's inner world only adumbrates his real-world exploits and the world he consciously created in his fiction. Read full book review >
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