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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498

This dreamlike story, about a writer who returns to his native Brisbane, Australia, to give a reading of his work and is attacked by a mysterious man, begins with the writer’s earliest memory. His mother’s Doberman, Maxie, is ill with heartworm and crawls under the house to die. Colin crawls in after him and stays there holding him the whole day until his father crawls under and coaxes him out. This memory is connected to another one, from a year later, in which his father tries to teach Colin how to swim. As Colin gasps and thrashes to stay afloat, he wears the same look of desperation his father wore when he tried to get the child to come out from under the house.

The story then shifts to the present as Colin, a successful writer living in England, has come to Brisbane, his hometown, to read from his fiction. However, the story still focuses on the past, as Colin recalls how he and his mother did not become close to each other until after he had left home and had begun to write her letters and how his father died during World War II when Colin was only six years old. He also recalls a diary left by his father, in which he had recorded his impressions of Athens, Greece. Later, when Colin goes to Greece, he tries to recover some defining image of his father by visiting the places his father did. During this visit, a man, mistaking Colin for someone else, begins talking with him and then spends the day with him, guiding him around Athens, only to disappear later in the day.

The only person Colin knows in Brisbane is his cousin Coralie, with whom he grew up, and her husband, Eric. He recalls that when they were children, he and Coralie planned to get married. He also recalls that just after the birth of his first child, Coralie came to London and spent six weeks with him and his wife. After spending an evening with Coralie and Eric, Colin takes a taxi to his hotel but then decides to go out for a walk. Suddenly a man attacks him, accusing him of being involved with his girlfriend. The man begins to slash at himself with a knife until Colin wrestles him to the ground and the police arrive. Although the police are initially skeptical of Colin’s story that he has never seen the man in his life, with Eric’s help, Colin is released the next day. That evening, he gives his reading to a small audience; later that night, he has a dream of going on a truck to an area where illegal marijuana is grown, the “dream stuff” of the title.

Sources for Further Study

Library Journal 125 (June 15, 2000): 120.

New Statesman 129 (May 1, 2000): 57.

New York 33 (August 7, 2000): 68.

The New York Times, July 5, 2000, p. E8.

The New York Times Book Review 105 (August 20, 2000): 9.

Publishers Weekly 247 (May 1, 2000): 47.

The Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2000, p. W9.

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