Reviews > Published on May 8th, 2023

"Your Dreams" by Thomas Moore

First things first: Moore writes with a precision that renders the incoherence of the world. Anyone familiar with his work knows he pares language back to the point where it becomes what it is, a toy-like object we gesture at the world with, something incapable of enduring our belief in its powers to communicate. This isn’t a revelation but rather its general state. Language, for Moore, tends to disappoint imagination and constrain reality. A belief in the absolute freedom of the former and the possibility of actual beauty in the latter provides some relational intimacy, a tectonic structure, between thought and reality underneath which desire can flow and erupt as the two bank upon one another. The precision of Moore’s prose is therefore that of subtractive sculpture, it is what is cut away or markedly absent that reveals an impenetrable form.

Your Dreams, Moore’s fifth novel, however is exploring the fissured space around our gesture’s relation to reality, what it is trying to point at, with ever greater clarity and a bold interrogation of his work’s core beliefs. There’s something at risk in this work that’s entirely new to Moore’s oeuvre even as the narrator occasionally draws attention to the stylistic similarities between this text and his other work. This is a ruse, misdirection; contradiction is baked into the text and the refusal for neat responses requires that the language maintain its commitment to Moore’s in/direct style despite the narrator’s claim that:

He doesn’t have the faith in his abilities to go all out and really stretch his abilities with something genuinely new, but he does have an arrogance and thinks that by keeping things short and clipped then it will enable the reader to take in his work easily

If Moore’s work has always been invested in tracing the slippery interactions between imagination, desire and the existence of an/others’ reality then Moore’s position Your Dreams places itself under a kind of scrutiny I’ve rarely experienced in literature, transgressive or otherwise, and the manner in which all this seems, somehow, to occur off the page, in another subconscious space that the reader partakes in but which the novel generates, makes its achievement all the more striking. I’m struggling to think of a novel that interrogates the very precepts of its existence in a way that feels so close to how we are all lashed to the mast of our body’s existence, unable to really see what drives us. Trauma, abuse and its legacy…all these things are not dealt with in the text but rather experienced adjacent to it, yet through it, before feeding back into an interrogation of its defensive, experiential, and ultimately potent surface. 

Moore’s narrator knows that in the day to day reciprocality of relations ecstasy is impossible

 For the uninitiated Moore’s set up in the opening pages, the narrator visiting an intimate friend for a difficult conversation, might lull them into a false sense of security regarding the degree of intensity they are about to experience and just how challenging this may prove to be. For the initiated, the understanding of the likelihood of Moore’s work entering a genuinely transgressive area won’t detract from the raw shock of the revelation or the discomfort of confrontation. Without spoiling the sparse plot, what occurs details the moment in which the delineations, the very delineations perhaps that create the possibility for inner space,  between desire and fantasy and reality collapse into each other in such a way as to render them all incoherent. Bottle necked. This collapse, and one characters’ starkest possible response to this collapse coming to light, occasions a crisis around the role/freedom of imagination and fantasy.

The work’s response to encountering its own limits, is to overcome them not through an all too easy transgressive affirmation but rather through a continued recognition of ambiguity, flux, survival and it does so in this incredibly emotionally sophisticated and hard won manner that does not detract from the extremely sensitive subject matter that occasions the muted crisis. Here is something that in its horror resists a fixed understanding…what does this mean? That this is a challenge that, for all of its damage, must still be lived through, a thing not closed through its disclosure and that experience, all life, is a thing to be continually reckoned with. 

There’s a strange thought, or fantasy I suppose, I’ve long held about fire. An image passed down from childhood, a fixation I've forgotten that is nonetheless writ into my imagination. I don’t remember learning that the blue flame at the centre is the hottest part, that there’s an intensity there that renders the orange fire a kind of affectation. I just remember the fascination of knowing it. As if the popular image of fire  was the identity that the blue flame required should it ever touch the world. I imagined making a house in the blue of the flame. Living within a nothing that I thought would be akin to heaven. Not a lack of feeling but rather feeling untrammelled by any need to express itself beyond its burning. On a recent podcast of Unconscious Machinic Happy Hour, Lindsay Lerman makes a point that where identity is destroyed, subjectivity remains. This struck me at the time and it struck me again reading Your Dreams. 

Synthesis: Between the fire and the limited truth of the scream is where Thomas Moore’s narrator seems situated, or aimed at, or desperately cradling within themselves. At the heart of the feeling, totally consumed, trying to remain in whatever can hold them without trading their freedom for definition because how can anything defined be ecstatic? Isn’t ecstasy how mortals aim at god? Moore’s narrator knows that in the day to day reciprocality of relations ecstasy is impossible which brings us circling back to reality and the disappointment of language and its paradoxical necessity. Still, Moore’s work maintains this state of confusion as a site of possibility. The world is still there and can be found fascinating and it emerges impossibly out of our mistakes to communicate it. 

Published by the impeccable Amphetamine Sulphate, Your Dreams is a thrillingly complex, emotionally challenging novel that you may be able to physically read in a single afternoon but which will haunt you long after you put it down.  It is a novel that passes through the fire and emerges out the other side, not so much cleansed as surviving. 

Get Your Dreams directly from Amphetamine Sulphate 

About the author

Thomas Kendall is the author of The Autodidacts, released May 2022. Dennis Cooper called The Autodidacts ‘a brilliant novel — inviting like a secret passage, infallible in its somehow orderly but whirligig construction, spine-tingling to unpack, and as haunted as any fiction in recent memory.’ His work has appeared in the anthologies Abyss (Orchards Lantern) and Userlands (Akashic Books) and online at Entropy.

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