Monday, November 26, 2007

To Dream Strange Things

The job of the writer, said Nathaniel Hawthorne (American writer, 1804-1864, author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables) should be:
to dream strange things, and make them look like truth.

In his short piece, "The Hall of Fantasy," he imagines entering an "edifice" of the imagination:
It is not at all times that one can gain admittance into this edifice, although most persons enter it at some period or other of their lives; if not in their waking moments, then by the universal passport of a dream.

As he strolls about with a friend, he encounters some fantastic machines:
Here was a machine . . . for the distillation of heat from moonshine; and another for the condensation of morning mist into square blocks of granite. . . . One man exhibited a sort of lens whereby he had succeeded in making sunshine out of a lady's smile; and it was his purpose wholly to irradiate the earth by means of this wonderful invention.

"It is nothing new," said I; "for most of our sunshine comes from
woman's smile already."

"True," answered the inventor; "but my machine will secure a
constant supply for domestic use; whereas hitherto it has been very

It is a charming 19th-century excursion into the realm of the writer of fantasy, one who seeks to make granite from mist, who delights in dreams of strange things.

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