Dreams of Sleep (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
A married woman lies in bed, not yet wanting to face the day, thinking about her husband’s attractive receptionist, dwelling on the younger woman’s clothes, her jogging, her energy. Alice, the wife, is thirty-three and in a slough of inertia. Her daughters are four and six. The constant trivial duties weigh like lead. She has grown afraid to drive the car. She finds herself scolding her children in sharp and hurtful tones and realizes that they conspire to keep their feelings from her.
The opening of Dreams of Sleep might come from half a hundred novels of the 1970’s or 1980’s, yet by the end of a dozen paragraphs, Josephine Humphreys has commanded attention. In the first place, her language is extraordinarily sharp. A typical sentence from the opening passage shows her skill at producing words that give double value: “She doesn’t see other women much, especially since her husband took up with one.” Furthermore, Humphreys reveals that “cliché” and “common truth” are sometimes synonyms; she writes phrases and scenes that make readers look furtively over their shoulders to see if someone has been peering into their secrets. When Will, for example, averts an unpleasant discussion by telling Alice that he loves her, she responds automatically:“I love you,” she says back. This marriage is like a place where the language is not her native tongue. She has managed to pick up the words and idioms and intonations...
(The entire section is 2121 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Christian Science Monitor. LXXVI, May 9, 1984, p. 26.
Horizon. XXVII, April, 1984, p. 62.
Kirkus Reviews. LII, March 1, 1984, p. 215.
Library Journal. CIX, March 15, 1984, p. 597.
Los Angeles Times. June 14, 1984, V, p. 39.
Mademoiselle. XC, June, 1984, p. 91.
Ms. XII, April, 1984, p. 32.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXIX, May 13, 1984, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXV, March 16, 1984, p. 69.
Washington Post. May 6, 1984, p. 3.
(The entire section is 52 words.)