by Ellie Robins
From: L.A. Times
If you chart the history of dream writing, you get a map of ideas about fate and individual agency through the ages.
With a few notable exceptions, the ancients and medieval Europeans saw dreams as divine messages; spaces in which you might learn about the destiny assigned to you. In Native American cultures too, dreams have been a means of transcending the individual and connecting with the spiritual world.
In Renaissance Europe, as humanism and individualism flourished, people began to put themselves, rather than spiritual forces, at the center of their journeys on Earth. Dreams, in turn, were seen as bound in the individual. Think of Macbeth: his hallucinations, the “terrible dreams” he reports, all the play’s tortured sleep. Dreams now played out waking preoccupations, rather than otherworldly agendas.
Dream writing lost and gained popularity a few more times, and then came the real explosion with Freud. In the era of psychoanalysis, dreams were suddenly so much more than illustrations of waking preoccupations. They showed people things about themselves; things they were unable to access while awake.
The third book from Los Angeles writer Wendy Ortiz extends this inward trajectory of dream writing to its furthest point: “Bruja” goes so far inward that the waking world doesn’t feature at all. The book collects Ortiz’s dreams over a period of four years, in spare and at times mesmerizing prose. It’s published as a “dreamoir,” which Ortiz defines as: “A literary adventure through the boundaries of memoir, where the self is viewed from a position anchored into the deepest recesses of the mind.” That spatial relationship is crucial: We’re taken to crouch in the undergrowth of Ortiz’s subconscious, catching glimpses of a self projected in shifting constellations.
Though “Bruja” is not a traditionally plotted literary work, it contains themes and symbols — we are, after all, dwelling in a person’s subconscious. Maternal conflict, pregnancy and indecision over relationships and living arrangements recur. As do bags (the packing and unpacking of them); water, sometimes containing sharks and dolphins; and cats. “Bruja” stirs the instinct to draw these threads together; for the curious, Ortiz has revealed that the dreams date to her late 20s, a period when she was becoming an adult, settling on her chosen life. Read Rest of Review Here