Book Review

How The Dead Dream by Lydia Millet

i whinge about unexpected canadian expenses and read a solid novel

This is the penultimate unread book of literary fiction I took me with me (in lieu of payment or career prospects) from the offices of Random House, back in the Autumn of 2010 following a fruitless, carefree, optimistic fortnight doing pleasant work experience in a publishing company. In fact, those two weeks would turn out to be the only enjoyable experience I have ever had working in an office, and as such I haven’t don’t so since some temp work in 2014. Imagine that!

I applied for a few office jobs, recently, here in Canada. I did it half-heartedly, more out of a sense of duty rather than any desire to return to my least-enjoyed mode of cash accrual… I didn’t get a single interview, lol. That’s maybe for the best.

Instead, I’ve ended up back in my “working multiple jobs” lifestyle, which suits me better. I think. The weather is starting to improve and it does, kinda, feel like Spring is on its way. Maybe things will improve. Maybe not. Data plans are expensive here and so is the internet. Yesterday it cost me about a hundred pounds to get a month’s worth of anti depressants as I had to go through a – literally ten second – online video consultation with a private GP.

Exhausting. I don’t mind spending money on things that I want that are actually expensive, but I do resent paying heaps of money for something I know is cheap.

Though I cannot place an order, I can see exactly how low the rock-bottom medicinal prices of my meds are across the American border, and the price there is similar to the price I was happy to pay back in the UK. I know, too, how profitable it is to run a mobile phone network, even at European prices (much much cheaper than here) so there’s no fucking need for Canadian data plans to be as disgustingly pricey as they are… anyway, what I mean to say, in a shorter way, is that I”m getting annoyed about the cost of things here, in relation to their value.

I’ve cut down my spending as much as I can (no drinks out, barely any drinks at home, no live events, no non-secondhand books, no new clothes, no holidays, etc etc etc), but suddenly things that I think of as cheap essentials (a high daily dose of off-brand Zoloft and constant access to Twitter) have become luxuries. I’m not feeling financially constrained because I’m spending all my money on fun, I’m doing basically nothing except working and reading, I’m not having fun and I’m still spending everything I earn on the boring little things I feel I need just to, like, get through a day in my nasty little bald head.

Whatever. Waa waa waa.

I decided to read my long-unread copy of Lydia Millet’s novel because – as eagle-eyed readers might have noticed – I find more unnuanced and guilt-free pleasure in novelistic fiction than any other type of literature (or pleasure). I decided to read a novel, with no idea of its plot, no knowledge of its writer and now, with so many years between its acquisition and my opening it, no idea at all as to why I selected it from the literally hundreds of available books. I made many bad life decisions back then (and still do, tbh, it’s about my only constant characteristic…) but picking up a copy of How The Dead Dream, thankfully, wasn’t one of them.

Millet’s 2008 text is an uncomplex but engaging piece of climate-minded fiction, and though its narrative of personal growth – rather than  punishment – afforded to an avaricious property developer in the 1990s shows, heavily, the fact that it was written before the financial crisis that hit in earnest during its publication year, it does hold up as an intriguing, solid and nuanced piece of fiction.

Thomas, who is almost always referred to as T., grows up fucking loving cash. He collects it and hoards it and is constantly seeking ways to get more. He goes to a fancy university and then gets a good job, and everything is going swell in his continuous acquisition of funds until he finds love, loses it, his father’s mid-life crisis wrecks his stable home life, he finds and loses love again and he has a few business things go wrong. He learns to care more about the world and about other people and other living things within it, and everything comes to a head during a disastrous trip to find and see some endangered species. By the time I’ve come to type this it’s almost a fortnight since I finished the novel and I can’t remember the intricacies of its plot too well, but I have never been one to elevate plot above character or tone or construction. Millet’s text works: it’s a satisfying read and one I’m glad to have got round to perusing.

I will continue picking up the most lonely books of my collection over the next few months, unless I can do something unexpected and thereby change the need I have to not be buying new books willy-nilly. It’s an excuse, of sorts, my need to budget: but if it’s between a new book every week and having mobile internet, I think I know which is the most important. It’s the internet, obvs. It’s always the internet.


On November 14th 2018, I launched my first (and so far only) book, Bad Boy Poet, in the basement of Burley Fisher Books, Dalston. Here are some of the songs and poems I performed:

Order Bad Boy Poet from the UK publisher here.

Order Bad Boy Poet with free Worldwide Shipping from The Book Depository here.

Order Bad Boy Poet from Amazon/Waterstones/Hive/Foyles etc if you’d prefer.


This blog ain’t free… to run

Yes, of course, no one is making me do this. But if you like it then you should make a donation because you're probably richer than me rn. Give me C$100 and I'll email you a high-res, professionally shot nude photo (if you want), give me C$1000 and I'll have one printed, framed and couriered to anywhere in the world.

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