Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Diction of Dreams

Sherlock Holmes compilations number amongst my guiltiest of pleasures, and I’m fortunate in having had the foresight to load the entire collection of mysteries onto my Kindle (the source of much moral angst, but also of my pre-bedtime entertainment) before I left California.  I’m pining after my Calvin & Hobbes anthologies (these, I imagine, being difficult to come by in Kenya), and so for the moment I have to make do with Arthur Conan Doyle’s infuriatingly-smug detective and his befuddled sidekick, Dr Watson before plunging into Meja Mwangi’s Carcase for the Hounds which I picked up the other day at Prestige Bookshop on Mama Ngina Street.

But I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve overindulged.  I’ve always known that if I read enough of something in a particular genre or style, my own writing shifts in that direction.  So if I’ve been reading too many academic monographs I begin overusing the passive voice and placing my subjects and verbs in strange places. 

But it appears that the same can occur with regard to the diction of my dreams!  If I’ve been reading enough Holmes, the utterances in my dreams assume the languorous weight of upper middle-class Victorian parlour conversations.  They are laden with “kindly thises” and “kindly thats”, peppered with “if you would be so goods” and “I confess my dear so and sos”.

If, however, my mind drifts to the Mysterious Matter of the Tsavo Elephants too near my bedtime, the diction of my dreams assumes the formula of fastidious bureaucratic correspondences and I find myself in serious danger of boring myself awake.

I haven’t paid sufficient attention to the phenomenon to determine whether the character of my dreams changes.  Whether, that is, I go riding elephants through the streets of Victorian London or go creeping round the savannah, tracking poachers wearing a deerstalker cap. 

I can only guess at what will befall my night-time verbiage once I move on to the Complete works of Mark Twain, which await me on the kindle... 


  1. kindles are the best for research trips! i have 2700 books on mine (currently working through robert jordan's "wheel of time" series, which is quite a commitment). but i also have a hearty amount of sherlock holmes, so jolly good.

  2. I'm coming to terms with mine, although I certainly don't have that many books on it! Wheel of Time should keep you busy for a while...I got through 5 or 6 before my resolve faltered! Currently getting into a series by China Mieville...

  3. I'm almost finished with the fourth, and still quite taken with it (I've now resolved to take up horseback riding when I get back to the States), but I keep being warned by people that I will hate what Jordan does to the female characters.

    It took me a while with the Kindle, but they're really wonderful for entertainment reading. I couldn't stand it if I had to read academic literature that way, though. Typing snarky comments in the margins just isn't the same.