In the land of dreamy dreams : short fiction

by Ellen Gilchrist

Paperback, 1981




Fayetteville : University of Arkansas Press, 1981.


In her 1981 collection of stories, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, Ellen Gilchrist writes about New Orleans as no other writer. Laced with envy, greed, lust, terror, and self-deceit, her stories will shock and compel readers. Gilchrist's characters, women who dream of independent lives beyond the shadows of their husbands and fathers, resort to outrageous schemes in pursuit of freedom and fulfillment, despite the consequences. The range of emotions and realities encompassed by Gilchrist's work is suggested by the story titles: ""Rich,"" ""There's a Garden of Eden,"" ""The Famous Poll at Jody's Bar,"" ""In the Land of Dreamy Dreams,"" ""Suicides,"" ""1957, a Romance,"" ""Generous Pieces,"" ""Indignities,"" ""Revenge,"" ""Perils of the Nile,"" ""Traveler,"" and ""Summer, an Elegy.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member debnance
This little book of short stories got better and better, the more I read. The characters were as real as any people I've known in real life, with the same capacity to surprise and shock me. My favorite was "Traveler".
LibraryThing member mnlohman
Love those quirky Southern writers!
LibraryThing member tercat
I had a hard time deciding how many stars to give this book. I read the first stories quite a while ago. I returned to the book just a day or two ago and read the rest. I don't know whether it's the stories themselves or where I was personally when I read them, but I found myself liking the stories
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in the last section of the book, Perils of the Nile, a lot more than I liked the stories at the beginning of the book. Maybe I was just distracted or not in the mood for short stories when I read the first section? I especially like "Revenge" and "1944". The four stars go to Perils of the Nile, since that's the part that's freshest in my mind. Thanks to Amy, who gave me this book!
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Fourteen years went by and the Wilsons' luck held. Fourteen years is a long time to stay lucky even for rich people who don't cause trouble for anyone.

I went through it with this short story collection written by Ellen Gilchrist and first published in 1981. I began the collection and was quickly
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enamored of the voice; it's like Flannery O'Connor and Dorothy Parker were collaborating to have the most terrible things happen to cruel and thoughtless people. And slowly, sometime around the fourth or fifth use of the n-word, I felt qualms. 'Maybe Gilchrist is just really committed to using the words her characters, white people living in the South in the 1970s, would have used?' I rationalized, and maybe? It shows up as a descriptive term used by the omniscient narrator as well, so I will say that perhaps some short stories age better than others and there's a reason she isn't much read nowadays. And about the fourth or fifth short story I started to get tired of bad things happening to bad and careless people.

Then, two-thirds through this book about mean people the author clearly disliked, something extraordinary happened. I reached Revenge, a longer short story in which a girl is sent to spend the summer of 1942 in the South with her grandparents and her cousins, all boys, who exclude her from their project of becoming Olympic athletes. She is enraged by their behavior.

I prayed they would get polio, would be consigned forever to iron lungs. I put myself to sleep at night imagining their labored breathing, their five little wheelchairs lined up by the store as I drove by in my father's Packard, my arm around the jacket of his blue uniform, on my way to Hollywood for my screen test.

Rhoda is not exactly a sympathetic character, but Gilchrist here takes the time to inhabit her life so that I understood her frustration with being stuck inside when she really needed to run around outside. It's a great story with a fantastic ending, one that fully respects who Rhoda is. A perfect story and one I don't think I will soon forget. And, in the stories that follow, Gilchrist continues to excel, each story centering a girl unable to conform to what's expected, while still fully inhabiting the prejudices and expectations of her time and place. It's superbly well done.

How to reconcile a book of stories that have aged badly, but that include some brilliant stories? I have no idea.
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