Proposed design for the dust jacket of my forthcoming book of dreams. The woman on the back cover is my great-grandmother, Regina Doiron. The man on the front cover is her father, my great-great-grandfather, Louis Doiron.
The book will contain 500 dreams, a preface describing my recording methods, an index, two essays on dreaming as it relates to theory of mind, and a detailed catalog of the contents of an old trunk filled with relics my great-great-grandfather left behind.
Dreaming the dreams was the easy part, but it took me a while to arrive at the concept for the book. Which image should I use for the cover? What would the title be? How would the dreams be set into the book? How would they be framed?
Wandering around my studio one morning, my hand gravitated toward a nutria rat skull sitting on the bookcase. When I held it in my hand, I saw the image as the cover of a book. I started there. I made a mock-up of the dust jacket.
I liked how the bleached skull and the sandy tones gave off a desertscape vibe, pointing the project in a Babylonian dream book direction. I tentatively titled it I DREAMED, but as I continued to read and research, I noticed that there were already too many books with the word DREAM in the title.
The way that books are marketed on-line today, it helps if the titles give useful information as to the content of the book, so you end up with a lot of books with unimaginative titles. Because my book would be distributed through other channels, I was free to use any title I wanted. I knew I didn't want to use the word DREAM in the title, but beyond that I wasn't sure.
When I came across this quote from Stephen King it rang true to my experience of dream recording:
"Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer's job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it's enormous, a with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand-page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same." ~Stephen King
The image of the skull really captured this feeling of excavation, so I paired it with a new title, BURIED THINGS, and that was the plan for a couple of months.
Then a friend suggested I read The Red Badge of Courage, that great novel about the Civil War, for unrelated reasons, and another friend pointed me in the direction of Emily Dickinson. So I was already in a late nineteenth-century state of mind when I started going through my great-great-grandfather's trunk, which, if the legend is true, once served as the repository for the clothes he wore home after fighting in the Civil War.
Digging through the old photographs and other buried relics, the concept for the book snapped into place. I kept the title, BURIED THINGS, but substituted the photographs of my ancestors for the image of the skull.