Reality and Dreams

by Muriel Spark

Paperback, 1998





Chapters Pub Ltd (1998), 160 pages


Follows the career of self-centered, middle-aged film director Tom Richards. As he turns colorful incidents from his life into glittery, cinematic fiction, his foreboding dreams become all too real.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Porius
Spark can pack an awful lot into 181 pages or so. The randy film director Tom gets up to various and sundry shenanigans. Does he wake or sleep? That is the question.
Gore Vidal thought It was Spark at the top of her form. John Mortimer admired her 'sharp and short' style. A S Byatt discovered that Tom's life and his films are distorted shadow images of each other, and the subtlety of the parallels only slowly becomes apparent.
For me, Spark is an acute observer who knows what long-shots are, and what are shoo-ins.
… (more)
LibraryThing member yooperprof
A golden-hued gem from the author's later years (published when she was 78). It's no Jean Brodie, but still delightfully brimming with Sparkian vim and verve.

The novel concerns a middle-aged film director and his wandering libido, as well as his complicated and meandering family. Fellini crossed with Iris Murdoch? It's a social comedy in the well-established British tradition. At first glance, it may seem slight, perhaps superficial, but like early Waugh or most of Ivy Compton-Burnett's work, there's a lot going on beneath the surface.

"Tom often wondered if we were all characters in one of God's dreams. To an unbeliever this would have meant the casting of an insubstaniality within an already insubstantial context. Tom was a believer. He meant the very opposite. Our dreams, yes, are insubstantial; the dreams of God, no. They are real, frighteningly real. They bulge with flesh, they bulge with blood. My own dreams, said Tom to himself, are shadows, my arguments - all shadows."
… (more)
LibraryThing member thorold
Spark's touch in her later works is sometimes so light that she never quite touches the ground, and you start to wonder whether there was anything there at all, or whether you just imagined that you'd read another Spark novel...

In this one, written when Spark was in her late seventies, a well-known film director is put out of action for a while by an accident on set. Spark sets out on a hunt to find out what is behind the key concept of the Thatcher years for a lot of middle-class people, "redundancy". Are people - men especially - really so defined by "what they do" that they are entitled to fall apart if someone pays them to stop doing it? But she seems to get bored with this quite quickly and shifts to celebrity culture and the absurdities of the film industry, where actors and directors like to pretend they are producing aesthetically relevant work but all the decisions are taken by accountants and insurers. And there's a vague recurrence of the "rogue female" plot-thread from The only problem, so faintly pencilled-in that it almost isn't there.

Worth reading because it's Spark and there are gems of unexpected thought tucked away even in this, and it only takes an hour or two of your life anyway, but probably not one of her best.
… (more)
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Spark has a transcendent knack for creating stories that ride a razor's edge between being funny and being very serious commentary on modern-day life. This book, about a movie director and his family may not be her best book, but it still shines very brightly. Deceptively easy to read, her novels are gems to be sipped at and savoured.… (more)
LibraryThing member BobNolin
A short, light read, amusing...and confusing. Not sure what it was trying to say (if anything). The book seems to have two halves. In the first, Tom the movie director (our protagonist) is recovering from a fall off a crane while working on a movie. He recovers, completes the movie, and the second half begins. Here, he's working on a new movie and the daughter of his first marriage suddenly disappears. Tom's driver is shot, but survives, and the daughter is suspected of hiring a gunman, but for what reason, I never did figure out.

The book is my first by this author, and her wise, knowing narrator voice reminds me of novels by her friend, the late Gore Vidal. A lot of telling, rather than showing, which only a writer this good can get away with. It makes the story fly by quickly--perhaps too much so.
… (more)
LibraryThing member downstreamer
As another reviewer has pointed out, this is worth reading because it is Muriel Spark, and there are moments of brilliance. But the insouciance Spark is known for in her writing becomes slap dash and careless in too many places. There is almost a postmodern disdain for character here which reminds me of Pynchon (Slothrop qua Slothrop), but really it's less a stylistic choice than a carelessness on Spark's part. She seems fascinated by the concept of "redundancy" but treats the theme with shallow disdain. So, all in all read it, since it's so short, but don't expect to be blown away.… (more)
LibraryThing member ivanfranko
A confusing novel, not nearly as good as others I have read of hers. There's a theme of redundancy that runs through the first half of the book but peters out. The missing daughter aspect seems an introduced contrivance to restart the story and the finale is poor. Best avoided if you enjoy reading.
LibraryThing member stillatim
Sometimes you read a book in which there are many, many bad things, but one or two great things make up for it. Sometimes you read a book with which there isn't much wrong, but also nothing really right. 'Reality and Dreams' is like the latter. The characters are interesting. Something seems to be being said. Unfortunately, the interestingness of the characters isn't greater than usual, and whatever is being said is so weakly said that it probably wasn't worth saying, unless the point is that the rich and famous live as if they were in a happy movie, whereas the rest of us live in a murder-mystery and are either the accused or the victim. Which is probably so obvious that it isn't worth saying.
Anyway, disappointing compared to the other Spark I've read.
… (more)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

160 p.; 5.5 inches


0395901332 / 9780395901335
Page: 0.3254 seconds