Dream Children

Overview

"Compelling, beautiful. . .Miraculous. . . Astonishing. . . So deeply satisfying, as to be breathtaking."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer
In fifteen extraordinary and lyrical short stories, esteemed novelist Gail Godwin has created worlds in which we discover ourselves as lovers, mothers, wives, and friends.
Carefully, delicately, Ms. Godwin peels back the layers of defense and reveals women who search for meaning and connection in a world of abstraction and isolation. In "Dream ...
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Overview

"Compelling, beautiful. . .Miraculous. . . Astonishing. . . So deeply satisfying, as to be breathtaking."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer
In fifteen extraordinary and lyrical short stories, esteemed novelist Gail Godwin has created worlds in which we discover ourselves as lovers, mothers, wives, and friends.
Carefully, delicately, Ms. Godwin peels back the layers of defense and reveals women who search for meaning and connection in a world of abstraction and isolation. In "Dream Children," a reckless young wife finds herself unable to separate from the child she has lost; in "My Love, His Summer Vacation," the mistress of a married man so closely follows his every action that she has no life of her own; and in "Indulgences," a woman makes a list of her lovers, only to wonder if she can love.
A keen observer of both heart and mind, Ms. Godwin has conjured up a stunning collection of stories that strike at the center of our lives.
"In Dream Children, Gail Godwin shows her capabilities as a clear-seeing uncoverer of thought. . . . What she knows about the workings of the human mind as it deals with grand tragedies, tiny sorrows, she knows with conviction."
--The Christian Science Monitor
"The work of a writer who is moving confidently to the forefront of contemporary American fiction."
--The Miami Herald
"The stories are all. . . detailed with expertise and frosted with elegance."
--Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345389923
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1996
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail Godwin
Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award nominee and the bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels, including A Mother and Two Daughters, Violet Clay, Father Melancholy’s Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband, and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961—1963, the first of two volumes, edited by Rob Neufeld. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Is the childless woman in "Dream Children" a seriously disturbed person, or is she someone to whom we can relate in some way?

2. Gretchen, the protagonist in "Some Side Effects of Time Travel," says that her friend Roxanne should release herself from her "prison of fact" and "live in a meaningful myth." She quotes Carl Jung: "Neurotics may be simply people who cannot tolerate the loss of myth." Do you agree with this ad­vocacy of dream living? In what ways does Godwin portray doubts about this approach?

3. What are the various ways of having an imaginative relationship with life? Letter writing is one way. Do you write letters that you don’t or can’t send, such as Gretchen’s to God? What would happen if you did send one, as the second wife does in "False Lights"?

4. Review the stories in Dream Children. In what ways are they related? Here’s a list, presented in order, to refresh your memory:
• "Dream Children"–A young, childless woman lives a parallel life in which she meets a boy’s projected spirit.
• "False Lights"–A utopian writer’s second wife nourishes an imaginary relationship with his first wife.
• "Some Side Effects of Time Travel"–A writer wants to live outside of time and tries to stop chronicling her life.
• "Nobody’s Home"–A married woman plans to observe her husband from an apartment across the street, then decides to view her life from an imaginative distance instead.
• "My Lover, His Summer Vacation"–The two-week vacation of a man and his family is chronicled from both the man’s and his dependent mistress’s points of view.
•"Interstices"–A mad housewife is one of four unhappy lovers at a party at which a freezer thaws, spoiling the meat.
• "The Legacy of the Motes"–A scholar of metaphysical poetry is beset by vision-impairing motes in his eyes, a sign of how he must change his life.
• "Why Does a Great Man Love?"–Early childhood dramas may explain a powerful man’s dominating relationships with three women.
• "Death in Puerto Vallarta"–Fragmented impressions relate how a woman, concerned about her weight and her lover’s marriage, collapses on a tropical beach.
• "An Intermediate Stop"–On a lecture tour for his best-selling book about meeting God, a vicar rediscovers
• "A Sorrowful Woman"–A woman is overwhelmed by the power invested in being a mother.
• "Layover"–Surrealistically, a woman conÞned to an airport becomes the colossal lover and mother of all.
• "The Woman Who Kept Her Poet"–An ungainly teenage girl becomes lover, nurse, and muse to a dying poet.
• "Indulgences"–A successful costume designer, pressured by her lover to reveal her past, makes a list of her seventy-four previous affairs.
• "Notes for a Story"–A writer’s childhood friend visits her and her lover, challenging their happiness with a "witch’s sabbath" that leads to violence.

5. Look at what is said about Borges in "Some Side Effects of Time Travel"–that he seemed to live outside of time, containing in his mind fablelike short stories. Do you like fables? Do any of the stories in Dream Children work as fables?

6. What are the side effects of time travel?

7. Are heavenly visions describable? Does what the vicar envisions at the end of "An Intermediate Stop" qualify as a vision–or is it a revelation? What is your reading or experi­ence of either in your life?

8. "One day there was a wife . . ." is how Mrs. Wakeley imagines her story beginning in "Nobody’s Home." According to advice books and magazines, what are the steps along the journey of the wife?

9. Who are the happiest and saddest characters in Godwin’s collection of stories? Is there much hope for the sad ones?

10. What do the time notations in "My Lover, His Summer Vacation" tell you about how Godwin paces a story? In this story, nothing happens, and it is like the dependent mis-tress’s "The Beast in the Jungle" (the Henry James story about a man’s lifelong expectation of a great event). Would two weeks in anyone’s life make a story even if it seemed that nothing happened?

11. In the story "Interstices," Esther says, "Those in­betweens are hell." She is referring to the time that her lover
Sidney must spend in an airport during a layover. This has us thinking of the story "Layover." Do people weave such a self-deluding myth about their own lives that they ignore the interstices–the fears, the fantasies, the intimations, the heavens and hells?

12. Does "The Legacy of the Motes" make you want to know more about metaphysical poets? What is Godwin’s interest?

13. Many of the stories in Dream Children include male protagonists. Famous for her portrayals of a spectrum of modern women, what kind of a universe of men does Godwin create in this book?

14. Why does the man whom Adriana picks up at the end of "Indulgences" lose his sexual urge with her?

15. Does "Some Side Effects of Time Travel" express regret for the loss of religious ways? How does Godwin reflect on religion throughout the stories in this collection?

16. There is also a lot of material relating to caring for children in these stories. What are the themes? What is wrong with the woman in "The Sorrowful Woman"? To what extent is this and other stories in this book related to the spirit of the times?

17. In "Notes for a Story," does your consciousness of how the writer shapes the story interfere with or enhance the story?

18. What are the ways in which we court the dark side, and are we thankful for agents such as Catherine in "Notes for a Story"?

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