About DREAMING VIENNA, by TIMOTHY CONLEY, Available November 1
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- Published: Thursday, 14 September 2023 00:47
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About Timothy Conley's Dreaming Vienna (available Nov. 1)
Dreaming Vienna begins with a quote from Missouri’s Mark Twain on how novels carry their authors away, and a list of 36 kinds of dreams discussed by Vienna’s Sigmund Freud. These opening bits foreground a tension between objective and subjective realities. How, exactly, does one believe a novel or interpret a dream? And what exactly does Vienna symbolize, especially for Americans? In Dreaming Vienna, subjective reactions generally prevail over conventional expectations. Conley is especially adept at painting the shadows and fogs which surround his characters, creating moments of confusion, chaos, despondency, acceptance, and wisdom.
Thus, Felix Kulpa (“Happy Fault” in Latin) struggles to find meaning in St. Louis, MO, first in his family’s Catholicism, then in philosophical systems, and finally in Vienna where, in a joyous explosion of passionate folly, he dies. Kulpa’s experiences resonate. His cousin Victor barely avoids sexual abuse by a priest, but carries scars from Missouri to Vienna, where he “researches the priesthood.” The very word, “research” changes meaning as Viennese students quarrel over versions of stories or mock pretentious mentors.
There’s a carnival feel to large sections of Dreaming Vienna as characters pass near one another without quite meeting--leaving traces, overlapping moods, fragrances, fragments, memories of bickering brothers, a guilt-ridden veteran, snow-covered children and orange-clad street cleaners. To tour guides, Vienna may symbolize cultural depth, artistic aspiration, and human achievement, but for Conley those interpretations are radically incomplete. Only the gold-tipped cane of the mysterious Herr Winklemann can offer reliable direction; only rugs handmade by a one-armed feminist can keep readers fully warm.
Timothy K. Conley twice served as Senior Fulbright Scholar in American Literature at the University of Vienna. In 2016, his ground-breaking study of over 150 English-language films and television shows set in Vienna--Screening Vienna--was published by Cambria Press. Recently retired from a career teaching at Bradley University, Conley lives in Peoria, IL.
Dreaming Vienna blurb by Randy Splitter, author of The Third Man
Timothy Conley’s Dreaming Vienna is an affecting and thought-provoking novel, structured as a series of linked, intersecting vignettes, including stories (and storytellers) within stories and semi-allegorical figures who keep popping up in one vignette or another. The novel is structured, also, by the map of Vienna—its streets, tram stops, cafés, and neighborhoods, from the woodsy, suburban Eighteenth District to the more posh, more urban First, almost like a more subdued and melancholy version of Joyce’s Dublin.
Its tone ranges from whimsical humor and somewhat sober satire (at the expense of priests and professors) to the more melancholy bass note that is its dominant mood. Many of its characters travel from their ... lives in 1980s and 90s St. Louis to cold, foggy Vienna, the city of dreams generally turning out to be more mundane and less romantic than they expected. Their dreams, their nightmares, and their waking lives are [often] marked by loneliness, meaninglessness, and unresolved grief for their lost loved ones. But they’re still searching, still creating their own stories, Conley seems to be saying, and the novel ends on a happier note.