BOOK REVIEW: ‘Dream Closet’, Edited by Matthew Burgess

Dream Closet book
Cover Art for Dream Closet
Provided by the Publisher

Dream Closet is a collection of prose, poetry, personal essays, and artwork that explore the idea of “childhood spaces.” The image of a child escaping or going into tight spaces is a reoccurring theme many works. The wardrobe leading to Narnia, Randy in the cabinet in A Christmas Story, Calvin in his time traveling box. This book sets out to explore the meaning of that image through art and writing.

The introduction by Matthew Burgess speculates that children favor small spaces because of how it facilitates the imagination. A small space is easiest to control and it becomes a place where, for a short while, anything is possible. It becomes a sort of temporary autonomous zone ruled entirely by the child’s imagination.

One of my personal favorite works in this book is a short poem by Megan Buchanan called “Pocket”.

And here I am again
hanging out in the pocket
of God’s favorite shirt

This brief but excellent poem evokes the glee one feels as a child in their favorite space. As small as that space may be, there is a sense of transcendence to the child in just being there.

Another piece I enjoyed was the prose piece by Michael Cunningham called “In Hiding.” In it, he talks about how as a child he believed he was always being pursued by beings of an ineffable nature. Hiding in small spaces was necessary to stay away from them. He remembers that one day he abruptly realized that the beings simply did not exist.

I was not unusual, I possessed no secrets; there was no particular reason to hunt me down.
It was a dreadful revelation. I’m not sure if I’ve ever fully recovered.

This piece explores the “logic” which children use and how they come to the odd conclusions they do. The reasoning he explores in why he had to hide reminds me of the strange notions I had as a child.

Because one is being sought, one has to hide, but it is only by hiding that one renders oneself available to discovery.

It makes me of how I thought putting salt on hot food cooled it down, because it covered the steam coming off it. You simply lose these kind of ideas as you grow and learn, but sometimes it’s just like losing your religion.

The artwork in the book is consistently good as well. The ones I enjoyed most are a photograph by Aram Jibilian calledMorning in the Bedroom with Five Moons and a painting by Kris Di Giacomo called Liftoff.

I found some of the works forgettable, which is to be expected in an anthology with many different authors. My biggest criticism of this book is that some of the artwork featured have statements from the artist accompanying them while others don’t. Neither of the two I mentioned here do, and I would have really enjoyed reading what the artist has to say. I understand a visual artist wanting a work to stand on its own, but it’s somewhat jarring to include statements for some but not others from the standpoint of considering the book as a whole.

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