A rather serious meditation on what is, after all, intended to be a funny book. Lionel's quest in 'A Mermaid in the Bath.'
Do I live in a dream?
Yes, because I live in my head, or at least, I am not for the most part aware of my own existence. Yet as soon as I think about it, immediately I am aware of my body, these hands typing these words.
Or if I am driving, my mind can be away with whatever is on the car radio while my hands, feet and senses drive the car, perfectly safely, on autopilot, correctly stopping at red lights, anticipating and avoiding hazards and so on.
To be aware of the body driving is an interesting and even enjoyable experience. The mind does not need to interfere -- indeed it is too slow -- but it can watch. One can become aware (without looking) of one's hands on the steering wheel and also, somehow, of the traction of the wheels on the road. It helps to turn off the radio.
Touch-typing is a similarly odd experience -- to trust the fingers to find the correct keys, which inexplicably they do.
One learns to watch oneself doing all kinds of things.
Then on top of all this there are the complications of life, any life in which one takes some responsibility for the choices one has made, taking what is not so pleasant along with what is pleasant, because avoiding the unpleasant consequences of what one is, is to become a kind of tramp, barely to live at all. On the other hand, to live responsibly is to live fully, gradually to become free of little me.
That, I suppose, is what happens to Lionel in 'A Mermaid in the Bath.' The mermaid becomes his heart's desire, so he has to make the payment of leaving behind the safety of his previous self, and he has to do this with no certainty of success.
Yes, that is the other element: one's heart's desire.
Still, I believe in happy endings.