Jul. 8th, 2017

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
A. Alvarez "Night: An Exploration of Night Life, Night Language, Sleep and Dreams" (Vintage)





Alvarez brings a kind of journalistic quality to a subject that he apparently devoted four years to bring to fruition in this book. He looks at it from a bunch of different angles. The book takes on - dreams and nightmares, the fear of the dark, night shift work, the history of lighting, night motif's in painting and literature, and soon.


As a critic he analyses and reflects on what artists have had to say on the subject. The book starts with the poem, Acquainted with the Night, by Robert Frost and ends with a quote from Krapp's Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett. Many pages have passages from writers such as Stevenson, Freud and Coleridge, with Alvarez using them to examine a subject like the connection between dreams and surrealism.


The photographs and paintings that Alvarez chose to accompany his text are particularly haunting. One in particular: an untitled photograph by Roger Parry shows a dark room with a dull beam of light streaming in through a half-opened door. The photograph was taken from inside the room and a few objects can be dimly seen: a daguerrotype propped upside-down against the dark wainscoting; a length of rope that might be fastened into a noose. Alvarez has this to say about the photograph: "I no longer remember how I populated the darkness, but I remember the fear itself, particularly of the darkness that shrouded the upper floor, where I slept."

I found this a fascinating book.He's serious but playful, has a casual sophistication, a curious and sceptical mind, and a direct writing style.

Well worth seeking out.

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