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Looking for Librium

Dreamed by Jim Shaw, Jan. 1995?

This dream started realistically, then became progressively more like a fantasy film and ended up like a comic book. Someone mentioned Anne Rice. I thought of wheat. I was driving on a fog-enshrouded freeway that became a road outside Saginaw.

Then I was at a gym crawling across ceiling beams; our dogs were there, along with some of my students.

Then this woman and I were in a besieged cave. She was trying to light a gas flame with a sparking device. Orson Welles broke through the door & came at me with an undone wire coat hanger which was electrified & I tried to convince him to join our side since he was smarter than they were & he says something about Ezekiel. The woman finally lit the flame...

...which segued to a night landscape of clouds of gas that coalesced into pine trees that looked like vultures (making some sort of reference to Thomas Nast's famous Tammany Hall vultures hiding out on a stormy mountain ledge) and there was some voice over or type that talks about twelve Russian doves (meaning politicians) found on Mt. Sinai, looking for librium.

Cloud-pine-dove-vulture-politicians on Mt Sinai; dream sketch by Jim Shaw. Click to enlarge.

SOURCE: Jim Shaw's Dreams, Jan. 1995, Smart Art Press. It's the last dream in the book.
It's also all one run-on paragraph in all caps. I added breaks for readability on screen. Apologies to purists.


What gets me is that final scene--twelve Russian dove-politician-vultures (rather than doves of peace) on Mount Sinai "looking for librium". There's an unspoken word here: tablets. Pills instead of Sinai's stone tablets--of moral law. Anyone who's idly paged through even the World Dream Bank's tiny sample of Shaw's feverishly inventive dreams knows he has a grotesque visual imagination, but here the words are equally striking--the unsaid pun implies a quest for equilibrium gone chemical in a world where the sacred's gone silent; doves gone to vultures. Shaw likes to play deadpan clown, but here, in his very last dream, the makeup's off.

This sort of pun where the key word may only be hinted at was first described in the late 1800s by Havelock Ellis. I've dreamed 'em too; here's an example, Ellis Critique, playing on paw, gilt, sole, and drumstick.

--Chris Wayan

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