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How the Dead Dream: A Novel Hardcover – January 25, 2008
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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 masterâs 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.âs metamorphosis from coldhearted capitalist into compassionate child of the Earth. Critics differed in their opinions of T.âs 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 novelâs momentum and blur Milletâs message. However, T.âs internal struggles and quest for redemption stress humankindâs responsibilities and limitations as stewards of the environmentâ"a timely message indeed.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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But if I’m being honest, I didn’t love this book. I loved her themes. I loved the second half of the story. But I didn’t love all of it. For me, the moments of brilliance — and there are plenty of them — make it all worth it, but I have to acknowledge my ambivalence throughout.
How the Dead Dream follows follows T., a wealthy young real estate investor, throughout his isolated life, from childhood through his 20s. For the most part he’s a callous, calculating, unlikable person — until the night that he hits a coyote with his car and it changes his life. Transformed by the experience, which allows him to acknowledge his deep existential loneliness for the first time, T. finally allows himself to open up to others, but then tragedy strikes just as he starts to fall in love.
It’s how T. deals with his grief that’s so fascinating. Feeling a deep connection to both nature and the inevitability of death, T. begins breaking into zoos to spend his time among the endangered animals. There, he observes them and feels a sense of oneness with them, connecting to their aloneness, their resolute nature, their indifference to the humans who surround them, and their proximity to the end of the world.
In telling T.’s story, Millet creates a deep, powerful meditation on mankind’s relationship with animals and undeniable vulnerability when confronted by nature. Ambivalence aside, I’m still looking forward to reading more of Millet’s work.
The main character T. (short for Thomas), seems born with a love for money, the mere touch of it, and is drawn to the great men who's pictures he sees on the bills. He grows up to become a land developer, quickly learning the rules of the game. He makes a habit of studying the real motivations behind his investors, often finding them simple and brutish. After he develops land in a native jungle he becomes drawn to what he calls "last animals," those whose lives are so close to extinction that soon they will no longer exist.
While this may be the general theme of this novel, it is so much more. It is about the love of women, of wildness and the losses we all encounter and mourn. I don't think I've ever highlighted so much in a book. The intelligent and philosophical writing penetrated my heart, will I ever be the same? I simply adore this writer and this book.
Every sentence is a masterpiece. Even fully out of context, her lines remain beautiful. Poetry.
"Those who claimed shriekingly that honesty was a sovereign virtue were in fact merely fearful of the complex."
"Good to have something to hold, he thought, even something empty."