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dream sequence

23 october 2021

I don't much like novels about imaginary celebrities. It seems to me that there are plenty of real celebrities to read about. Multiplying them in fictional form doesn't provide interesting stories and certainly doesn't provide characters I can relate to, being fairly obscure and mundane myself.

That said, Adam Foulds in Dream Sequence creates a famous actor and follows him as a reflector-character for much of its brief length. It manages to explore some interesting aspects of acting, and even of fame itself, in the process. Henry Banks has starred in a Downton-Abbeyesque TV series widely consumed across the English-speaking world, and his new ambition is to break into major art films and be as celebrated at Cannes as he has been on (one supposes) BBC and PBS.

The weakness of Dream Sequence is, oddly enough, its frame, which is about an obscure person, the kind of character I generally find interesting. Kristin, an American woman who has defined herself in terms of the men she's attached to (she is newly divorced from her former boss), has become obsessed with Henry Banks after meeting him fleetingly at an airport once. Kristin writes Henry long, florid letters that should be intercepted by his staff, but one occasionally gets through. As Henry prepares for his big break into prestige films, Kristin sets out to meet and court him.

I won't spoil the plot except to say that it has far fewer twists than one might expect. The eventual encounters between Kristin and Henry are far more prosaic than one might imagine, even in their more lurid details. One is left wondering why write such a drab story; but I guess the story has to be there to support observations, or intimations, perhaps, of the psyche of an artist under public scrutiny. And those sections of Dream Sequence, the middle 3/5 or so of the novel, are worth reading.

Foulds, Adam. Dream Sequence. 2019. New York: Farrar [Macmillan], 2019. PR 6106 .O95D74