On Dreams

On Dreams

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Author: Maureen Thorson

Artist: Heather Goodwind 

Publisher: Bloof Books (2023)

Afflicted with sudden blind spots in her right eye, Maureen Thorson consults her doctor. Her diagnosis is AZOOR (acute zonal occult outer retinopathy), a rare condition that has no known cause and is surprisingly difficult to confirm. Because the afflicted eye appears normal, the problem cannot be directly observed-except by the patient herself.

Faced with the possibility she may lose her sight, Thorson goes looking for answers, reading and thinking her way through art history, science, poetry, folklore, myth, and film. She engages with Aristotle, who claims that menstruating women stain mirrors red simply by looking at them. She bristles equally at the romantic notion of the blind poet and the clairvoyant one. She desperately wants to assert control. "Writing can't save you from going blind," she acknowledges, but it "offers the reductive simplicity of narrative, with its seductive endings, tidy resolutions."

Maybe. When authoritative sources turn out to be mistaken, what then? When oft-quoted wisdom is revealed to be apocryphal, can it still ring true? And when her vision mysteriously clears, as unexpectedly as it dimmed, can she even claim she's been ill? Throughout the essays in On Dreams, Thorson finds herself repeatedly asking not only "what is reality?" but "whose reality?"

"After being diagnosed, or misdiagnosed, with a rare, 'invisible' eye condition that causes blind spots, Maureen Thorson set out to write a self-portrait in a broken mirror: a 'mirror of my suffering,' wry and poignant, fragmented and necessarily incomplete. On Dreams is allusive, searching, and self-arguing, a lyric meditation on reality, truth, illusion—the warped reality of the mirror image and everything we 'see'—and the illusion, 'the dream,' of control.

—Elisa Gabbert 

"Maureen Thorson’s essays are adroit and aphoristic, resonant and recursive, and stealthily instructive in the ways of the world. These generous and deeply considered writings are exemplary in their use of control and volatility, offering a telescopic window into a vast and fascinating mind."

—Natalie Shapero

"This work won’t allow itself to be pinned, even by its author. It follows its own north. In both an internal and external audit of the eye/I, Thorson meditates on the certainties of the body and humanity. Her prose is compelling, evocative and aptly intertextual. Thorson’s narrator oscillates between a desire for recognition and concealment. 'Maureen' is intimate with her reader or brilliantly distracting. We witness the writer as human, as woman in a society not built for her true existence, and as simulacra of the elusive self. These electric essays quiver long after you put them down. Thorson’s prose is woke, funny and conscientious."

—Kwonya Fagin Maples