A Dream Within A Dream

I dreamt that I had to use my iPhone pass-code in order to have a dream. It was a strange variation on a dream within a dream (story within a story)—a classic literary gambit.

Probably the most famous—and satisfying—use of this gambit is in Shakespeare’s plays: in Hamlet, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” and the performance of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ In both instances, Shakespeare illuminates the characters and forwards the primary plot line with the imbedded play. It’s wonderful.

Many years ago I was in a book club. We read an eclectic selection of novels with only one rule—women authors only. One of Anne Rice’s witch books had just come out and it was our book of the month in October. Fortunately/unfortunately, I was recovering from Karate elbow (the martial arts version of tennis elbow). With my dominant arm in a sling, I could barely carry the heavy book from place-to-place, but I could still turn the pages.

I’m not sure if I would have been able to finish the mammoth novel if I’d been doing much of anything except reading, but I did finish it. There was a book within a book in the story. Rice didn’t excerpt passages from the book—she gave readers the entire thing! It was an audacious choice—one I admire as a writer, but don’t particularly like. It weighed the primary story down. I remember being astonished when I realized that the book within the book was going on and on.

The dream once I input my 4-digit code? It was terrifying. It was about two men moving a large safe—a safe that was large enough to hold a relatively small body. Yes, big enough to hold me. Sometimes I manage to scare the shit out of myself.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare—always on hand for inspiration.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare—always on hand for inspiration.


  1. Ugh. So you had to contribute to your own demise? abduction? I used to have quite vivid dreams on occasion, but nowadays they’re kind of boring. I always seem to be working at somethng repetitive. Ah well.

    I like the idea of playing with themes and stories within the main story but two parallel stories would be rather confusing. :/

    • Candy Korman

      After I posted this I’ve had nights of dreams within dreams. It’s maddening! I think talking about it and thinking about it inspired more devious variations. Perhaps I can channel them into fiction? I hope so. Because dreaming that I’ve just woken up to tell someone about my dream, only to wake up to tell someone about the next chapter…. all while I’m still dreaming and haven’t actually woken up… is crazy! On the upside, dreaming means I’ve been sleeping as as someone with some “sleep deprivation” issues the evidence that I’ve been asleep is a good thing. Even if I’ve been running myself ragged in dream land. LOL!