Have we dreamed so big, only to awake small, suburban and fragile? Rosenblum’s collection of linked short stories is a chronicle of the disappointments of waking/growing up, only to find that the golden palace of your dream is a squat, square low-rise commercial building in Mississauga, and that your prince on a white horse is the guy from accounting who takes transit from downtown.
Not every story is perfect, but the work stories in particular snap and crackle. Some of the workers at Dream Magazine are youngish, poorly paid, working on short term contracts and bored to the ends of their fingertips. Some, middle-aged, have climbed the ladder to success, only to find that success means having a door with a nameplate that makes the cleaning staff afraid of you. In “The Weather I’m Under,” the HR VP has more of a relationship with the cleaner than her mother or sister. She says of the woman, “I didn’t even realize that our relationship was like this now: the frown lines, the waste bin frozen in midair, the gaze darting in search of her invisible colleague: resignation but also rage.” Others fare no better. The company CEO is startled in the story “Dream Inc.” to find that he is “the kind of slobbering old dirt bag that the girls use to make fun of in university.” The protagonist of “Loneliness” is “a senior marketing manager” whose seniority “showed in all the ways that she bent gently in yoga class, sat down to take off her boots, made love in the dark.”
If the book were not filled with such sharp, cutting insight it may have come across as whiny, but there is nothing self-pitying about these characters. They are all too human. At the beginning I was prepared to skim, assuming that I’d seen it all before, that there was nothing else Rosenblum could tell me about being in the doomed herd following the baby boomers out into the workforce. However, in the end, her crisp, unique language and tenderness with the disillusioned made me wish the dream could continue.