That Mysterious Book I Sometimes Read Just Before Sleep

‘Can’t sleep without reading a book.   ‘Can’t do it.

Even if I tumble in the door at four in the morning (a comparatively rare event, you must agree), I would still have to hit the current book and read for a while before sleep might come.

Usually it happens that I read for awhile and then I start to feel tired and so I put the book away, turn out the light and go to sleep.  That’s probably the normal chain-of events for most book-reading-people-of-the-bed, nothing unusual there.

But there’s another way things sometimes go and I wonder if I’m the only one it happens to.  Usually it happens when a book is so good that you just don’t want to stop reading, it’s too interesting/exciting, you just want to read on…

But sleep will come, it will not be cheated of its prey.  That’s when the odd thing happens – to me at least.

Sleep creeps into the text of the book and/or the text of the book creeps into sleep and suddenly the text I am reading is not the text of the book I am holding but some crazy pre-dream-state literary concoction.

If this just happened for a split second, I could let it pass.  But it seems that this can go on for quite some time.  I find myself reading, enjoying the words, when suddenly some remnant of consciousness says, “wait, this isn’t the book you’re reading, this is something else.”  And, indeed it is something else.  Some story with a logic and a sensibility all of its own but not from any printed document that ever existed.

Does this sound mad or do you know what I mean?

It would be much easier to discuss if I could remember anything -  anything at all - of this strange text that my book morphs into just as sleep descends.  But I can’t.  I guess the story is sprinkled with a little of whatever dust gets shaken onto dreams, that gradual but irrevocable self-destruct powder.

And, of course, I may tell you that this mysterious text goes on for quite some time but what do I really know about it?  Dream time is amorphic and tenuous at the best of times.  This thing I think lasts for minutes may only be a split second aberration of the shutting-down mind.

So, effectively, I’m posting about something I know nothing about.

Not exactly a first, no.

What bugs me about it, what makes me think on it now, is that this phantom text which appears in my book as sleep comes…

…well, it’s quite good, I think.

Maybe it's some book of my creation that it sitting inside my head, one I just haven't written yet.  Maybe my mind is giving me a sneak preview as a subliminal encouragement to get on with it.

Maybe I'll never get it written and will only ever see self-destructing passages as consciousness ebbs away.

Maybe I’ll be allowed to read all of it, as I die.


Anonymous said...

I have long been convinced that I get my best creative ideas while in the 'in-between' state. When you're not quite asleep but you are not quite awake.

I get that kind of non-focussed trance either going into sleep or coming out. I actively try to prolong it, to stay in fuzzy world, for as long as I can.

And I find I can almost reach it on purpose now. A bit like looking at one of those Magic Eye pictures, I can let my brain unfocus.

I truly have come up with some great ideas from that mental state - rather than full-on dreams, when you wake up thinking something like: "What a great idea, a crime-fighting loaf of bread on wheels."

Simon Ricketts

Karen Redman said...

Well, if you're mad then so am I. I very often drift off and believe that I've finished the book and find myself completely surprised by its ending as I've dream written a completely different one. And I'd agree with "Anonymous" that pre-sleep is the very best time for ideas.

Susan at Stony River said...

Of course it's quite good -- it's meant just for you, a gift from your subconscious perhaps, or a muse somewhere I'd guess -- what a wonderful thing to have happen!

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve never experienced it but it makes sense to me. With me, if I read too long, I find myself looking at the page, even turning the pages, but I’m not reading. My eyes are flitting from word to word but my mind is elsewhere. I think it is pointless to read immediately before going to bed. That said I frequently wake in the early hours and read for an hour and then try to get back to sleep again. I have a blog coming up about what exactly reading is and, like you, I’m out of my depth but it is very interesting. I say that’s I’ve read such-and-such a book but a lot of the time, if I’m being honest, I’ve turned the pages in that book and I remember nothing or next to nothing. That is not reading. That is a waste of time. Reviewing books is the best thing I ever did because now I have to be able to talk about what I’ve read.

Kat Mortensen said...

What's worse is, I can do that during the day, not just before sleep. Most of the time though, I'm just rereading the page and there's nothing going on at all. That's scary.