Essays in which happiness becomes a magic carpet, lifting readers above momentary fret and making the ordinary appears wondrous
Sweeping in and out of real and imagined places, Dreamtime highlights the curious character of an unconventional teacher, writer, traveler, husband, and father as he takes stock of his multifaceted life. Sam Pickering—the inspiration for the main character in Dead Poets Society—guides us on a journey through his reflections on retirement, aging, gardening, and travel. He describes the pleasures of domesticity, summers spent in Nova Scotia, and the joy of sharing a simple life with his wife of almost forty years.
"Life is a tiresome journey," Pickering muses, "and when a man arrives at the end, he is generally out of breath." Although Pickering is now more likely to shuffle than gallop, he isn't yet out of breath, ideas, or ink. The refreshing and reflective substance of these essays shines through a patina of wit in Pickering's characteristically evocative and sincere prose. The separate events depicted in Dreamtime invite the reader into Pickering's personal experiences as well as into his viewpoints on teaching and encounters with former students. In "Spring Pruning," Pickering describes the precarious tumor in his parathyroid and the possibility of cancer affecting his daily life. In a refreshingly honest tone Pickering says, "Moreover the funeral had become a staple of chat, so much so I'd recently mulled having the raucous, insolent ringer on my telephone replaced by the recording of taps."
Appealing to creative writers and readers who enjoy an adventurous account of travels through life, Dreamtime accentuates the lifestyle of a longtime master teacher whose experiences take him from sunny days in the classroom to falling headfirst over a fence after running a half-marathon. Unpredictable, spontaneous, and always enlightening, Pickering's idiosyncratic approach and companionable charm will delight anyone who shares his intoxication with all the surprising treasures that might furnish a life with happiness.
Sam Pickering is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. He has spent sixty-five years in schools, wandering classrooms in the United States and in sundry outbacks over the seas. For the past three decades he has taught English at the University of Connecticut. Pickering is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and is a graduate of Sewanee, Cambridge, and Princeton. Dreamtime is his twenty-fifth book.
"I've been savoring the essays of Sam Pickering for decades, but I think my favorite of his collections is Dreamtime. This vintage Pickering: a melange of wry humor, family stories, travelogue, natural observation, and remarkable wisdom. This is the sort of book you want to take to your bed when you have a cold. It's a book for the beach. It's a book for the fireside in winter. Any season will improve with Pickering as guide. Strongly recommended for anyone in low spirits, in need of a lift, in need of enlightenment."—Jay Parini, D. E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing, Middlebury College