‘Daydream’ a visceral ride through loss

Daily Trojan Online
University of Southern California
April 21 2004

‘Daydream’ a visceral ride through loss
By Olga Shemyakina

Media Credit: Photo courtesy of Penguin Group
Deep daydreams. Micheline Marcom writes about the dark fantasies in
the mind of Vahe Tcheubjian, an orphaned survivor of the Armenian

If after a difficult day you would like to relax on a couch with some
easy reading, do not pick up “The Daydreaming Boy,” the latest novel
by Micheline Aharonian Marcom, the author of the highly acclaimed
“Three Apples Fell From Heaven.” “The Daydreaming Boy” is about a
survivor of Armenian genocide in Turkey who, as a 7-year-old boy,
lost his father, who was bludgeoned to death. In order to save her
son, his mother gave him to an orphanage, and it was the last time he
saw her.

The novel opens with the boy, Vahe Tcheubjian, as a 40-something,
middle-class resident of Beirut. From the outside his life is going
smoothly – he is married and in a good trade and has a satisfactory
social life.

The book starts slowly, drawing the reader into Vahe’s world. His
life is not as much in the present as it is in the past. His thoughts
quickly transition and it is difficult to disentangle the past and
the present in his mind. He lives his life in a fantasy, he dreams
about his past, his youth spent in an orphanage, his cruel peers and
women he encountered.

The main characters in his dreams and real life are his wife Juliana,
his lost mother, Vostanig, a severely abused kid from the orphanage,
Jumba (the chimpanzee from the zoo) and Beatrice, a neighbor’s young
servant girl whom Vahe desires.

Some readers might feel as though they lived through the events
described and might want to distance themselves from them. The
narrator’s detachment from his own world conveys the cruelty he had
experienced as a child in the orphanage, Nest: “All we could do in
that place was to survive and to survive one had to be strong and

Marcom’s writing builds a wall between the boy in the story and the
grown-up man he has become. The boy had wanted to find love and
affection, and he was ready to offer his love for a good lunch and
some entertainment offered by a Samaritan family who takes him out
for a day. In his adult life, it seems as if Vahe’s only passion is
lust and memories.

The book’s style is highly mannered, with long sentences that never
end, repeating memories and flashbacks. It is masterfully written,
although Marcom’s focus on the style is distracting and makes the
novel hard to absorb.

Also distracting is the author’s excessive use of the f-word, which
she used too much. Her depiction of the sexual scenes and violence is
also too graphic, which makes the book hard not to detest.

In the second half of the book, the reader will find haunting images
of Armenian genocide. They are fleeting as they come and go, but are
very memorable. Marcom presents images of displaced families and
children, people with no homeland who had to learn new languages to
survive and children who had Turkish beaten out of them because the
language reminded others of the past.

Marcom takes the reader through Vahe’s life as he learned to deal
with his losses and his past and as he questions his present: “I
became more than lonely in our marriage … that our marriage has
become a container that held the lonely like a boy holds an empty
soup cup and wants just a small amount.”

Marcom crafts a story about growing up in a world that suddenly turns
upside down – a world in which one learns to live without a family
and love. This story is about the memories that would never let you