Magazine article The New Yorker

Dream On

Magazine article The New Yorker

Dream On

Article excerpt

The interpretation of dreams, according to Freud, is meant to teach us about individual dreamers' states of mind, not about the people and things that populate our fantasy lives; those are symbols. Teeth, swimming pools, nuns--they stand in for basic human desires and anxieties. When Sheila Heti, a novelist in Toronto, learned that her friend Margaux had recently dreamed about shopping for Tupperware with Hillary Clinton, however, she began to wonder: what if the recurrences of Presidential candidates in people's dreams were meaningful in the aggregate?

"I like Carl Jung and the idea of the collective unconscious," Heti said the other day. Last month, she established a Web site, ( IdreamofHillaryIdreamofBarack.com ) IdreamofHillaryIdreamofBarack.com, inviting strangers to submit candidate-related dreams. She calls her project "the world's first metaphysical poll on the Democratic contenders." After a week, Obama's edge in the over-all dream count (thirty-eight to thirty) was roughly equivalent to his lead in the latest Gallup poll.

Clinton fantasies--no surprise--are detail-oriented. A composite dreamland Hillary might look something like this: she wears bad perfume but good lipstick, has great skin, is often hungry (she likes spareribs) but has bad table manners, and, when doing chores (say, cleaning the attic), is fun to be around. She is a dog-lover and an accomplished ice skater. Pineapples, for some reason, turn up in two separate Clinton dreams, and the Clinton campaign is tough to please. ("They started requesting all sorts of food that we don't serve, like baked potatoes, bouillabaisse, and 'English tea squares.' ")

The Obama dream figure that emerges is not as vivid: a teacher, eight feet tall, with a foul mouth, smoker. He tends to be less active--a conduit. ("I started to write out the letter on the hamburger bun while Obama gave his speech, but with every few strokes the pen would break through the outer surface of the bread into the soft middle.") Obama dreamers also appear to be more international. A Saudi woman imagined he was reading a bedtime story to her (classic father-figure role), and a lawyer from Zimbabwe dreamed of being chased by him (the pursuit of justice). A Canadian film critic recalled the image of "Barack eating the votes that had been cast for Hillary like slices of smoked tofu. …

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