Books by Mississippi Writers 1996-2010
A Novel by Jack Butler Knopf (Hardcover, $25.00, ISBN: 0679446656, 6/1998) The author of two send-ups of southern politics, Jujitsu for Christ (1986) and Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock (1993), as well as a well-received SF novel, Nightshade (1989), makes another departure: a thriller centered on dream research. With a little help from a pharmaceutical company, Jody Nightwood has set up her dream research lab with her old friend Toni in Santa Fe. The two treat sleep disorders such as apnea and insomnia by day, while Jody records and analyzes dreams by night―her own dreams included. She hopes to develop a sort of unified field theory of dreaming, finally dislodging Freud's notions that dreams have to do with the issues facing us while we are awake, and also that they're mostly about sex. Jung's archetypes and idea of a collective unconscious enjoy more successful currency in trendy Santa Fe, and Butler has a good time satirizing not only Jung but regressive therapy, channeling, militant vegetarianism, Carlos Casteñeda, and language poetry. Much of what Butler has to say about dreams is compelling, and when malevolent aspects of Jody's dreams begin to dominate even her waking life, every reader will be intrigued. Unfortunately, though, Butler also layers on a trite thriller plot in which a CIA maverick, Benjamin George, assigns two klutzy gay men to tail Jody and invade her computer files, etc., because Benjamin has a theory that true artificial intelligence will be achieved once dreams can be programmed into it. Meanwhile, a rival set of spies bump into Benjamin's own, but it's hard to care, since these are only stock characters and Benjamin's theory never seemed plausible in the first place. Anyone drawn to Butler's sometimes poetic considerations of dreaming will simply be irritated. The espionage plot, which Butler handles poorly, doesn't graft well with his novel of ideas, which he handles well. Copyright © 1998, Kirkus Associates, LP.