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How the Dead Dream: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Lydia Millet
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

T. is a young Los Angeles real estate developer consumed by power and political ambitions. His orderly, upwardly mobile life is thrown into chaos by the sudden appearance of his nutty mother, who’s been deserted by T.’s now out-of-the-closet father. After his mother’s suicide attempt and two other deaths, T. finds himself increasingly estranged from his latest project: a retirement community in the middle of the California desert. As he juggles family, business, and social responsibilities, T. begins to nurture a curious obsession with vanishing species. Soon he’s living a double life, building sprawling subdivisions by day and breaking into zoos at night to be near the animals. A series of calamities forces T. to a tropical island, where he takes a Conrad-esque journey up a river into the remote jungle. Millet’s devastating wit, psychological acuity, and remarkable empathy for flawed humankind contend with her vision of a world slowly murdering itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Millet proves no less lyrical, haunting or deliciously absurd in her brilliant sixth novel than in her fifth, the acclaimed Oh Pure & Radiant Heart. As a boy, T. keeps his distance from others, including his loving but vacant parents, preferring to explore his knack for turning a dollar. Before long, he's a wealthy but lonely young real estate developer in L.A. Just after he adopts, on impulse, a dog from the pound, his mother shows up and announces that T.'s father has left her. His mother, increasingly erratic, moves in; meanwhile, T. finally meets and falls in love with Beth, a nice girl who understands him, but a cruel twist of fate soon leaves him alone again. As his mother continues to unravel, T. finds unexpected consolation in endangered animals at the zoo, and he starts breaking into pens after hours to be closer to them. The jungle quest that results, while redolent of Heart of Darkness and Don Quixote, takes readers to a place entirely Millet's own, leavened by very funny asides. At once an involving character study and a stunning meditation on loss—planetary and otherwise—Millet's latest unfolds like a beautiful, disturbing dream. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Lydia Millet, a social novelist with a master’s degree in environmental policy, has carved a reputation for herself by exploring difficult topics in edgy, darkly humorous works of fiction. How the Dead Dreamâ€"part philosophical meditation, part fable, and part comic escapadeâ€"argues for the importance of environmental protection as it portrays T.’s metamorphosis from coldhearted capitalist into compassionate child of the Earth. Critics differed in their opinions of T.’s character: is he a finely-wrought, sympathetic protagonist or a one-dimensional cardboard cutout? A few critics also complained about the many side plots that slow the novel’s momentum and blur Millet’s message. However, T.’s internal struggles and quest for redemption stress humankind’s responsibilities and limitations as stewards of the environmentâ€"a timely message indeed.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1442 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (August 28, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001R4CMXG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,164 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first book of a trilogy June 23, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the first book of a trilogy that circles around the concept/theme of extinction. The second novel, Ghost Lights, was released last year. The third, Magnificence, is still pending (scheduled for Nov release). The protagonists in the second and third books are minor characters from the first book. Millet's advocacy with endangered species and her graduate degrees in environmental policy and economics inform this novel without clamminess or preachy rhetoric. Her deft, precise language is lyrically noir and philosophical, and is plaited with satire and pathos, nuance and caricature. The dream-like narrative is ripe with imagery from the animal world. The motifs of absence, destruction and obsolescence reflect the moral decay that inhabits a capitalistic society in all its latent anxieties. It is also a rich story about the vicissitudes of the human condition.

Since childhood, T. has been a mercenary disciple of authority and financial institutions. His idols were the statesmen and presidents of legal tender. This led to a cunning acquisitiveness, scamming neighbors out of their money with his phony charities and by hemorrhaging money from bullied classmates in return for protecting them. In college, he learns the key to success, while remaining emotionally apart from others. He is the frat brother always handy with sage advice, and renders aid when they get in serious trouble. His vices are almost nonexistent, but he gladly provides rides for his drinking buddies. Everything T. does is calculated toward success.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Unforgiven March 1, 2008
"My Happy Life" is arguably one of the finest novels written in the last twenty years and if Lydia Millet had written nothing else, her place in the pantheon of authors would be secure because of it.
Her fifth novel "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart" is wildly erratic and thematically uneven though there are written passages of uncommon beauty. Millet is nothing if not a writer capable of producing cogent, thoughtful and gorgeous prose.
And now there is "How the Dead Dream," Millet's sixth novel and one which combines the outright thundering emotionality of "My Happy Life" and the absurdities of "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart."
"T" (we never know his real name as in "My Happy Life" we never know the "heroine's") is a Real Estate developer who has had a lifelong fascination with Cash: saving it, hording it and later...making it: "...throughout high school he also kept a small safe in his room. And on occasions when he felt rebuffed...he would retire there and carefully remove the portion of his stash he always kept nearby."
T realized early on in his life that he had a facility with separating people (kids, adults) from their money. In one instance he acts as a middleman between a grammar school target and his bullies: "Mrs. G., we were lucky they took the deal at all. They really like beating on him, Mrs. G/ it's all they live for. They didn't want to take the bribe at first but I convinced them."
As T grew, turned his avocation for making Cash into a vocation in the Real Estate game, his parents seemed to shrink from him: his father leaving one day and though T tracks him down later in the novel, his father has moved on emotionally...away from T and his mother.
Though it is natural for a Mother to let go of her children, untie the apron strings as it were.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel for Fans of 30 Rock and Arrested Development March 15, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are a lot of well crafted contemporary novels coming down the pike about family problems, social crises, etc. and about 99% of them strike me as superfluous, self-aggrandizing exercises in which the author wants to show the reader his or her creative and intellectual might. The final result is mediocre and flaccid.

Happily, this is not the case with Lydia Millet, whose point of view is one of the most unusual, and I daresay genius, I've come across since Magnus Mills' Restraint of Beasts.

In her first novel (I will now eagerly read her other five) she has written a grotesque fable with the sensibility and pungent sense of humor found in 30 Rock and Arrested Development.

Here Millet's novel focuses on T. who at an early age develops and articulates a Machiavellian view of the world to rationalize his insatiable appetite for greed and unrestrained capitalistic enterprise. Imagine Jack Donaghy expertly played by Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock inhabiting the body of a five year old and you'll understand T.'s psychological underpinnings.

We watch T.'s devilish entrepreneurial enterprises in high school as he uses extortion to protect a sad sack kid from the bullies who beat him and steal his lunch money every day at school. Even more glorious is T.'s justification of the extortion to the bullied kid's mother. Her every question is counteracted with a high school boy expert in the ways of legalistic sophistry.

As T. grows up and excels in real estate, using his predatory insight into the minds of his clients/victims to establish his empire, he has an unexpected breach in his life when he runs over a coyote.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a beautiful, haunting
This is a beautiful, haunting, wake-up call, in a different way than Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael". Read more
Published 11 days ago by YSQ
1.0 out of 5 stars You really cannot judge a book by its cover!
I bought this paperback because the title and the photo on the front cover intrigued me. Serves me right! The plot of this "novel" is quite preposterous. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Stahl
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book.
This novel was substantially different from what I expected. It's in fact substantially different from all the other novels I've read. I recommend it.
Published 11 months ago by Unclipped in Urbana
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't finish it...
I really wanted to like this book, I just couldn't. It starts out slow and gets slower. The story switches from being about the main character, "T" and his life, to a PSA about... Read more
Published 14 months ago by SeattleLoves2Trvl
4.0 out of 5 stars How the Dead Dream
She is a very good writer. Strange story. I had read another of her books and then realized this was a prequel to that one.
Published 17 months ago by psychology scholar
5.0 out of 5 stars How the Dead Dream: the Lyrical Salvation of a Young Capitalist
Before reading this book, I had no idea who this author was. Yet, within a dozen pages, I was coming to understand that I was reading something quite special. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Brian d'Eon
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK
Nothing special. Read a review in a magazine and ordered it. Did not like the characters -- they irritated me.
Published 19 months ago by M. Gordon
1.0 out of 5 stars Editor?! Editor?! Is There No Editor
This is such a badly written novel. The opening is rather interesting as T., a youngster, becomes fascinated with the portraits of the presidents on the dollar bills. T. Read more
Published 20 months ago by C. E. Selby
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Begining for a Triology
The first of the two published volumes forming a trilogy. The main character is placed in context and then we follow his emotional, moral, and physical travels. Read more
Published on March 4, 2012 by Jonathan A. Weiss
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious with no purpose
I'm not very far into the story, but am finding it difficult to read. I know the author wants to seem intelligent but I agree with another reviewer who said she uses too many... Read more
Published on April 22, 2011 by Cherfer
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More About the Author

Lydia Millet is a novelist and short-story writer known for her dark humor, idiosyncratic characters and language, and strong interest in the relationship between humans and other animals. Born in Boston, she grew up in Toronto and now lives outside Tucson, Arizona with her two children, where she writes and works in wildlife conservation. Sometimes called a "novelist of ideas," Millet won the PEN-USA award for fiction for her early novel My Happy Life (2002); in 2010, her story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2008, 2011, and 2012 she published three novels in a critically acclaimed series about extinction and personal loss: How the Dead Dream, Ghost Lights, and Magnificence. June 2014 will see the publication of her first book for young-adult readers, Pills and Starships -- an apocalyptic tale of death contracts and climate change set in the ruins of Hawaii.

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