In 1988, Pagoda Books (in the UK) and Salem House (in the US) published a little puzzle book called "THE DREAM: A rebus, fully illustrated", by Kim Palmer. Except for a short preface, the book consisted of a series of pictures, forming an elaborate rebus. The inside jacket of the book announced that a prize (an attractive lapel pin) would be awarded to every person who deciphered the puzzle and submitted a correct solution along with a corner of the jacket as proof of purchase.
I bought a copy of the book, and worked on it for months, penciling in my guesses, and struggling to figure out some of the more obscure pictures. I pestered my friends to help me, and in some cases, they were able to figure out parts of the puzzle that I could not decipher. At some point, in desperation, I even posted a message on the Internet, asking for help, but got no answers. After working out about 60% or 70% of the text, we got no further and the remainder of the text remained wrapped in obscurity. Several years later, I opened the book again, decided I was never going to be able to finish it, and passed it on to a friend.
In January, 2005, I received a charming letter from Chiara Lagani, a dramaturgist in Italy, who adapts, rewrites, and creates productions for a theater company. She was planning an event that involved rebuses (in Italian!) but had stumbled across "The Dream", and thought that she might like to include some of that work in her presentation. She had managed to decipher several of the first pages on her own, and then had gotten stuck.
Somehow, an Internet search she made turned up the posting I had made back in 1988 (I have not been able to locate this message myself!). So when she wrote to me, she had some hope that I'd had enough time to work out the solution! I had to confess that I had given up, and given away the book, and forgotten everything. But I ordered another copy of the book from Amazon, (for $2.00!) and began working my way back; in a month, it seemed like I'd recovered everything I had the first time; for a few more months, I was able to make excruciatingly slow progress. I begged for help from friends, and from time to time one more word or phrase would pop out, but there followed months of no further insight.
The solution was only completed due to the help of friends, and a few total strangers who somehow had also been bitten with the bug, and had been working independently toward the same goal.
Thanks to my friend Deb Nigra, who suffered with me through the first attempt at a translation, back in the Stone Age of 1988!
Hats off to my friend Jeff Borggaard, for several productive sessions which gained us "F-STOP" and "TOOL", "LONG" and "GAMAY".
Thanks to my friend and former office mate Greg Hood, who came up with "WEAVER DEW TEE"! (Please let me know when Stu has vacated my chair so that I can come back!)
Thanks to Internet correspondent Chris Rubeo, who corrected "MAY IBIZA ARAB ALICE" to "MAY IBIZA MOOR ALICE", and corrected "INTERN ASH SHEAR OWL" to "INTERN ASH SHORN OWL".
Thanks to Sandy Stern for pointing out the GLOBE artichoke.
A very humble thanks to Lois McCormack, who independently worked out most of the puzzle, (although, she said, that at one point the process had become so painful that she hid the book in her attic) and cleared up words, phrases, and entire sentences on pages 14, 22, 23, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 43, after I had gotten into the most dreadful mental deadlock.
After a little thought and consultation, Lois sent even more information that cleared up pages 26 and 27, and 33, and pretty much ended the job.
Thanks to Teresa Di Staso who wrote in February 2007, confessing that she had also been working on the puzzle, off and on since 1988. She supplied some alternate readings of lines that made more sense. In particular, I was unfamiliar with "globe artichoke", and the best I had come up with was "hearts" (from artichoke hearts) where "globe" was surely intended. Where I had "DISH EWES" she suggested the more sensible "PROBE LAMBS". Where I had the clumsy "PLACE CARDINAL SIGNS" she had "SET TIT WRITE", and my "SHEET TACK KIT TRIP" was bettered by "SHEET TWO KIT TOUR". The Humpty Dumpty figure I interpreted as "EGG" but she suggested "RHYME", which I'm not completely sure about, yet it makes the more pleasing "APE RHYME X SAMPLE" instead of "APE EGG X SAMPLE". And finally, she asks, what is going on with the mysterious "pyrex plate"? I too remain mystified by that phrase, and yet nothing else comes to mind.
Thanks to Maryann DeCicco, who pointed out in January 2015 that the image I had identified as a "Gamay" grape vine was, instead, a "May" (or hawthorne) tree; the two preceding socks were suggesting "longer" rather than "long", and so we still have the phrase "too long a major", but now a far better explanation for it.
Thanks, of course, to Chiara Lagani, for causing all this trouble!
These new breakthroughs have answered the final clues; while some of the answers may seem a bit fanciful or stretched, and there are a few clues for which alternate readings exist, the entire narrative is in place and makes sense.
A GRATE TAIL FOUR HOUR THYME
A Great Tale For Our Time.
DOUGHNUT LETTER CONE NUN DRUM BEET U.
Do not let a conundrum beat you.
THIRD EEL LIGHT FULL TAIL OVEN ALLEY
The delightful tale of an alli-(gator)
GATE OAR HOOF HOUND ASS SOUP HERB WEIGHT TUBE
(alli)-gator who found a superb way to b-(ring)
RING PEAS SAND CENTS TWO HOUR GLOBE (TRAFFIC STOP)
(a "globe" artichoke is being displayed here).
(b)-ring peace and sense to our globe.
LAST MARCH CHIDE DAD REAM WITCH
Last March I had a dream which
EYE CAN KNOT PERM MITT MICE ELF TWIG GNAW (UPRAISED HAND)
I cannot permit myself to ignore.
INN A PHAROAH FUND DISC COVERED PLACE CLOSE TWO
In a faroff undiscovered place close to
HORSE TRAIL EAR MEN KNEE CRETE JAWS DICE/DIX (French "10")
Australia many creatures de-(cided)
SIDE HEAD TWO DISCUS HUMOR KNIT
(de)-cided to discuss humanit-(ty)
TEA HAND REEL LATE HEAD PROBE LAMBS (FINISH FLAG)
(humani)-ty and related problems.
SEAL IRON TOLL DOVER CAT ASS TROPHY HAT CHURN
Sea lion told of a catastrophe at Chern-(obyl)
KNOB BILL DASH APE EGG/RHYME X SAMPLE OVEN
(Chern)-obyl - a big/prime example of a(n)
KNEAD FOUR GRATER SAFE TEE (BUS STOP SIGN)
need for greater safety.
ANT ELOPE SPOKE COUGH POP YULE
Antelope spoke of popul-(ation)
ASIAN CRY SEA SAND CHILLED WREN GO
(popul)-ation crisis and children go-(ing)
WING HUN GRIEF FOUR DAZE SAND DAYS (CAMERA F-STOP)
(go)-ing hungry for days and days.
I SEE LEA TELL PIECE SAW LOVE HIP
I see little peace or love hip-(popotami)
POPE POT TAME EYE COMB PLANED (POLICEMAN SIGNALING STOP)
WEAVER DEW T(-square) TWO SET TIT
We've a duty to set it
WRITE SEDAN ALLEY GATE ORE (FLAGMAN SIGNALLING STOP)
right, said an alligator.
LETTUCE SCENTER MESS AGE HONOR PIE REX PLAY
Let us send a message on a pyrex pla-(te)
TANNED LET TEAT SAIL TWO C HONOR WAVE (MUSICAL STOP)
(pla)-te and let it sail to sea on a wave.
WHEEL WEIGHT HAND FINE DOUBT HOOK
We'll wait and find out who
COMBS STACK CROSS SITAR CITIES FLOAT TING (STOP WATCH)
comes across it as it is floating.
KNOT LONG AFT TERRACE MAUL KID K
Not long after, a small kid c-(ame)
MAE CROSS SIT BUYER BEECH (MORSE CODE S-T-O-P)
(c)-ame across it by a beach.
SHEET TWO KIT TOUR PEAR RENTS HOOP ROME
She took it to her parents who prom-(ise)
MISS DATE RIGHT TWO INTERN ASH SHORN OWL FIG HERS (STOP BUTTON)
(pro-)mised they'd write to international figures.
BEE FOUR TOOL LONGER MAY JURY VENT
Before too long, a major event
TOFFEE NOAH MOUSE IMP PORT TENTS SOCK HERD (TYPEWRITER PERIOD KEY)
of enormous importance occurred.
WORLD RULERS UNIVERSE AWL LEAP PROP
World rulers universally prop-(ose)
POSED TWO MEAT TIN ORDER TWO
(pro-)posed to meet in order to
IMP ROOF HOUR PLAN NET
improve our planet
FOUR COMB MING GENERATIONS (ARM SIGNALS SPELLING S-T-O-P)
for coming generations.
B LEAF FIT TORE KNOT TIN
Believe it or not, in n(o)
O THYME THERMOS TAM MAIZE SING REVOLUTION
(n)o time, the most amazing revolution-(s)
SIN WORLD CLIMB EIGHT A ROSE
(revolution)-s in world climate arose
A LASS BUTTER DREAM (ORGAN STOP)
alas but a dream.
MAY IBIZA MOOR ALICE
Maybe the moral is:
SIEVE YOU AIM TWO IMP PRESS POLLY
if you aim to impress poli-(ticians)
TITIANS U LAUGHTER RIGHT TOOTH
(poli)-ticians, you'll have to write to th-(em)
HEM EWES SINGER RAY BUS (FINISH LINE)
(t)-hem using a rebus.
THISTLE A MUSE YEW FOUR SHORE
This'll amuse you for sure.