Friday, 07 July 2006

An Excerpt From The Journal of the Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Culture (8:33) I. The following is a 2006 transcript from the final session of a man I will call Patient #3987. Although the violence which with his case concluded is anomalous, this transcript succinctly captures not only the cultural milieu of Summer 2003, but also its continued (and possibly salutary) resonance. The first voice you hear belongs to the late Shelby Darling; the second, Patient #3987. Breathe deeply. Slowly. Focus on the experience of breathing, the feel of cool air over your lips, into your lungs, then out again. Now listen to the smooth, soothing sound of my words as they wash over your worries and fears. You are in a safe space, now. Nothing from the grind can disturb the peace you now inhabit now. You lose yourself in the warm embrace, of my calming words, and you breathe deeply, and you breathe slowly, and you feel the cool air cross your lips . . . . . . and you look around you, at your surroundings. You are in a familiar place, but you experience it from an angle that makes it seem unfamiliar now. Tell me, [#3987], what do you see? I hear Kenny Mayne shouting. He sounds scared. Someone else is shouting too. "The devils!" they scream, and together they scream, "The devils!"1 Where am I? You're in a safe place, remember. Now take a deep breath and gently walk away from the voices. Now, continue to retreat, calmly, orderly, to your safe space. Ignore Kenny Mayne. Kenny Mayne can't harm you here. You're in a safe space. Now take a deep breathe . . . I can't go back there. The devils, he said, the devils. I can't. DIDN'T YOU HEAR WHAT KENNY MAYNE SAID ABOUT THE DEVILS? It's alright, [#3987], everything's going to be alright. You're under my protection. Neither Kenny Mayne nor his devils can hurt you so long as I'm here. Now, I want you to return to that familiar place, and inhale. Now, look around again, and exhale. Ignore Kenny Mayne for the moment and tell me what you see. I see a poster on the wall and, and I see a man in a bathrobe, but not in a bathroom.2 He's near the television, but there's no picture, no sound anymore. Tell me more about this man. He seems adrift, lost in a culture not his own. He looks bedeviled, yes, bedeviled by feelings of inadequacy. This all means more, I think, more than this . . . Tell me one thing . . . . . . there is nothing, that's what he's thinking. That there's nothing more than this.3 I can hear Kenny Mayne again. He's yelling again: "The devils have one! The devils have one!" What do they have? I don't know. Then the devils have nothing.4 They're weak. Mental representations of fears you can't face alone. But I'm here, I'm here with you now. We'll face them down together. Put your hand in mine, [3987], and put your...
Literature Today [If you have recommendations for “Literature Today,” post them to and tag ‘em “thevalve” or send them to acephalous (@) gmail (.) com.] Vanderbilt builds “a constellation.” (How’s that for a subtle URL?) Life? Or Theater?: While it is usually exhibited on the walls of museums, it could just as reasonably be presented horizontally, like a book. It makes sense to treat it as a graphic novel, a story of ironic complexity and brutal honesty. But of course there is also the title, which indicates that this is really a piece of theater. [Editor: For your convenience, this article is also available in Yiddish.] Tintin and the Secret of Literarture: Literary theory or “an elaborately coded ‘art stunt’”? Peter Nicholson discusses the limitations of the ironic mode: Part One, Part Two. Letters are “the only really satisfactory form of literature,” claims Lytton Strachey, and he aims to prove his words true: The world is rather tiresome, I must say—everything at sixes and sevens—ladies in love with buggers, and buggers in love with womanizers, and the price of coal going up, too. Where will it all end? Mal Peet, after winning the Carnegie Medal for Tamar: How can [Bush and Blair] have forgotten history, and forgotten Vietnam? How can Bush be so illiterate and unlearned? I think the opposite of learning is literary amnesia, in its wider sense, and I worry we are suffering from this on a large scale at the moment. I’m not sure I follow. Finally, those wild, wild undergraduates. So naïve. Of course he “expects to finish writing the book by next week.”

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