How the Dead Dream is a somewhat strange book that I nonetheless enjoyed. It’s one of those “slice of life” stories that is barely generalize-able to the population at large, but uses the character study of one man and his stunted relationships to satirize the societal values that spit out his type.
Our first introduction to main character T. is as a young boy, when he is in the midst of cultivating a fetish of sorts for physical currency. The feel of coins and paper notes in his hand, moreso than any value they possess, drives him to acquire more through honest and dishonest means (mostly the latter.) This “entrepreneurial” spirit drives him into adulthood, where he is a real estate developer and kind of a lone wolf among his similarly-principled peers. His tidy life is thrown off kilter both by his mother and by another woman, Beth. They’re not destructive forces, exactly; nor are they MPDG characters whose spirit re-ignites his passion for living, or anything like that. Their influence on T. is quieter but still significant. It’s just that as an adult, it’s the first time that he really valued and appreciated his mother, but his connection to her is almost too late, as her mind is slipping in her age. Likewise, Beth is just the kind of solid, kindred partner he was never expecting to have, but the notion that all relationships are constrained by the impermanence of life itself gets T. thinking about the mark we leave behind.
His curiosity manifests as questioning interactions between humans and animals, how our activities have pushed countless species to extinction, and how, when it is almost too late to save endangered species, the best we can think of to do is to put the last animals in captivity and try to “encourage” them to breed. T. is fascinated by the impulses of these animals and how, divorced from their habitats, they won’t just do what we want them to do, even if it might save them. Animals gonna animal, basically, whether humans like it or not. T. takes to breaking and entering into zoos to just hang out with these animals, reveling in the uncertainty of their natures and the flaunting of expectations placed on them by humans.
As I said, How the Dead Dream is a rather quirky little book, not in a super whimsical way but just in the way that it comfortably inhabits a seemingly mundane existence. The tone is at once detached from and invested in T’s life, and there isn’t much of a plot, so it’s one of those books where not a lot happens, but it’s pretty confident in its presentation of very little. As to my personal feelings about it, I’ll put it this way: I happened to find myself in the right mood to read and appreciate it, but I don’t feel particularly compelled to pick up the remaining two books — not sequels but “companions” — in the triad.