cover image Sleep Is Now a Foreign Country: Encounters with the Uncanny

Sleep Is Now a Foreign Country: Encounters with the Uncanny

Mike Barnes. Biblioasis, $14.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-7719-6512-5

This mind-bending memoir from Canadian poet Barnes (Braille Rainbow) pivots on the author’s life-altering psychotic break when he was 22. While trudging through his freshman year of college in “a waking dream,” Barnes grew certain that he was headed toward the breakdown that eventually came several years later. He took long walks at three in the morning, hoping to find relief from the sense of impending doom; in the daytime, he showed up for classes and earned mediocre grades, but retained almost no memories of his attendance. Following periods of deep depression and depersonalization, Barnes sought help from various psychologists and counselors—sessions he recounts in surreal, frequently humorous detail—each of whom offered their own unhelpful analysis. He also took trips to the Dachau concentration camp and other locations in hopes of eliciting the kinds of deep emotions that might crack him open, though he remained unstirred. The volume’s particular magic lies in Barnes’s adept use of free-flowing chronology and hallucinatory language to immerse readers in the depths of his psychosis (during his breakdown, he describes seeing “a flattened, sky-wide frieze of huge geometrical forms, rectangles of electric blue and rhomboids of liquid gold and chocolate brown”). This isn’t easy to forget. Photos. (Nov.)