As children, most of us are scared of the dark. Although we may put that fear behind us, it remains nonetheless buried deep in places where we prefer not to look. It is a terror-as old as the human race-that survives in spite of the magic of electricity, which disguises but can never erase the differences between night and day. In this powerfully written book, A. Alvarez examines night in all its aspects. How do we light it? How do we inhabit it and make it safe? In what "languages" do we dream? The search moves from the neon-lit brilliance of Las Vegas to the shadowy underworld patrolled by the police. We visit a sleep laboratory, where scientists try to understand what happens to our bodies and in our brains when sleep claims us. Alvarez shows how "night horrors" inspired and terrified Coleridge, how dreams liberated the minds of Stevenson and the Surrealists, and how his own childhood fears provided a gateway to the secret world of the unconscious. And through a highly original and accessible account of the thoughts of Freud, Jung, and their modern-day counterparts, Alvarez reveals how deeply dreams and the unconscious color and fashion our waking lives.
Like his bestseller The Savage God, Night is a remarkable, eloquent combination of ideas and personal experience; it is a literary feast, a journey of discovery, and a perfect initiation into the mysteries of the dark.
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(211mm x 140mm x 20mm)
WW Norton & Co
Publisher: WW Norton & Co
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
Although pleasing to read and informative, this exploration of the elements of night ultimately lacks cohesion. London-based Alvarez (The Savage God, not reviewed, etc.) sets out to investigate the sinister power that he claims darkness has always held for human beings. He looks at myths and religions in which "godhead equals light equals order; chaos equals darkness equals fear." After giving a history of human attempts to banish the darkness, from fire to electricity, Alvarez jumps to discussions of his own childhood fear of the dark, the history of sleep research and dream analysis, crime, and night life. The section on sleep research - ranging from the definition of consciousness to the discovery of REM sleep - is clear and understandable and he makes intriguing use of literature in relation to scientific conclusions about sleep. Unfortunately, it's not enough to bind the various elements of the narrative together. Each section, from the self-analytical explanation of a childhood phobia to the research into nighttime crime in modern cities, stands as a separate entity, and the text skips from one concept to another with no warning or reason. The longest section deals with the dual sciences of sleep research and dream analysis and their effects on writers and writing. It is here that Alvarez adds something new to this subject, by applying the knowledge gained from these disciplines to poets as diverse as Coleridge, who suffered from nightmares, and the Surrealists, for whom dreams were a model for creative expression. Only in the last sentence of the book does Alvarez overtly address the concept of death, an idea that is always just under the surface of his text, but it appears too suddenly and is left hanging, unexplored. Like the dreams that are dissected and explained at length, the connections here are just too unclear. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - A. Alvarez
A. Alvarez is a highly acclaimed poet, novelist, literary critic, and author. He lives in London.