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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Friday, March 16, 2007

the sleeping wounded

A mite underslept this morning after awaking at 3:45 from this dream:

Dream of being shot--or rather of having been shot--with a diamond bullet. I'm with Kimmie and others, cleaning out a house or apartment, and I'm putting on a record to listen to: a 45 RPM disc of "Reelin' in the Years." For a lark we're going to see whether we can clean out a certain room in the time that the song plays. I'm expecting the song to last maybe four minutes, but I see on the label that it plays for only 2:59--even less than three minutes! I'm surprised; this won't leave us much time.

And now I notice that I've been shot: there's a bullet-hole in my chest or upper arm, a clean, dark-red hole. I know it's a diamond bullet, but to Kim (or Mom?) I say, "It's a carbon bullet." This is bad, because this kind of bullet does especial harm, maybe blowing up inside one after a certain time. I'm not in pain, but I realize that I may be about to die--a reality I find hard to grasp, and I wonder whether Kimmie and the others realize the urgency, or whether I'll be dead before the song's over.

I quickly typed those paragraphs into my journal when I got up so I wouldn't forget the dream. I can see in the images certain impressions from recent days: I was thinking yesterday or the day before of when we moved Robin into her new apartment down the hill in October; a few days ago something caused the old Steely Dan song "Reelin' in the Years" to surface in my mind--possibly when Kimmie and I were reminiscing about the song "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" by Rick Derringer, from the same year (1973), and I recalled an anecdote that Fagen and Becker of the Dan had exhausted Derringer in a recording session once by demanding endless repeats of a guitar solo; a couple of days ago I read an article in The Economist about the world diamond trade, and some of the effects of "blood diamonds" on that industry. (Curious side-note: Rick Derringer now appears to be a Christian rocker.)

I've also been reading and thinking about nanotechnology, which relies on carbon nanotubes and the minute carbon polyhedra called buckyballs. Maybe a week ago or so Kimmie asked me what a geodesic dome is (invented by Buckminster Fuller, after whom the nano-balls are named).

I recall too that "Reelin' in the Years" contains the lines "You wouldn't know a diamond/If you held it in your hand."
Diamonds, of course, are also pure carbon. And I have toyed with the idea of setting a story in a globally warmed future, with the working title of Carbon. I've been reading about how the complexity of living forms is made possible by the special properties of carbon, its many different ways of making combinations with other atoms. In that sense it's the element of life. To be shot with a bullet made of it is therefore something of an irony.

These are just scraps of impressions and thoughts: the shreds from which the collage of the dream was made. But I haven't thought about what the dream might mean. I felt a sense of sadness and vague urgency in the dream rather than the dread I might really feel if death were so imminent. But it was striking, anyway--and I think a new kind of dream for me. Why that? Why now?

I never did return to sleep. The alarm went off, and it was time to lumber down here and start my day.

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