Life is no laughing matter, but our dreams can be very amusing

Credit: Chris West

Credit: Chris West

Regular readers of The New Yorker magazine are familiar with the cartoonist Roz Chast. Her quirky cartoons have been amusing readers of that publication for decades. Now and then she’ll choose to put together a group of cartoons devoted to a particular theme and issue them as books.

Chast’s most notable collection, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?,” came out 10 years ago. It depicted her memories and experiences from the period in her life when her aging parents were entering their final days. It was bittersweet, sentimental and utterly amusing.

Her latest book, “I Must Be Dreaming,” takes readers down a far more bizarre path as we experience the artist’s take on her dreaming life. It is, as always, illustrated with her unique cartoons. As you might expect, her nocturnal dreams are just as funny as her cartoon renditions of reality as she perceives it.

Many of us experience recurring dreams. I have them in which I’m still a late-night radio DJ. I’ll start playing a record, a long cut so I can run across the street to get a candy bar. When I return I am locked out of the radio station and the record still playing inside has been skipping, over and over. There’s nothing I can do about it except to wake up.

Here’s her take: “Everyone has recurring dreams. Is our brain trying to tell us something that, evidently, we haven’t heard the last seventy times? Or is the dream-manufacturing area feeling a little lazy? I have no idea, but here are some of my ‘classics.’” She illustrates a dozen recurring dreams.

One of them involves high school. She is experiencing a crisis: “I’m wandering the halls of my high school, but have lost my schedule. At some point, I realize I already graduated and all this worrying is for nothing. Does that stop me from having this dream again and again? Not a bit!”

The author explains that when she was a teenager she kept a dream journal. Then she stopped. Later on when she was much older she began writing down her dreams again. If she doesn’t do it she might forget what she dreamed about. She keeps a notepad by the bed. It is also handy for scribbling down cartoon ideas.

Chast has an unusual sense of humor. So do I. Some of the dreams she shares here range from grotesque to violent to disgusting. The kinds of subjects we don’t discuss in a family newspaper. Those were some of my favorites. I could not stop chuckling.

We have fragments of dreams, we can only recall snippets. Chast illustrates a few fragments. There’s one cartoon of a fellow, her dream fragment about “a cult of fat men in France who dress like Liberace, but sound like Johnny Cash.”

Are we working things out in our dreams? Or merely entertaining ourselves? Do you desire a fresh dose of humor? “I Must Be Dreaming” could be just the thing you needed.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at