Over the past two or three months, since having the idea of studying to become an analyst, I read certain things differently – writings that include some reference to therapy, psychology, dreams, etc. have become much denser and more interesting. Because, I suppose, I am no longer interested only when those writings seem to directly have something to do with my own psychology – I'm interested in all the aspects, all the processes.
Under those circumstances, it's interesting to trip over Frederik Pohl's Gateway in a used book store. A dense and interesting work by any standards; but I'm not paying so much attention to the science fiction ideas, nor to the interesting and realistic portrayal of a future poverty – I'm more interested in the protagonist's bizarre, amazingly resistant/abusive relationship to his machine therapist.
It's hilarious and awful and grotesque – here is someone with some horrible memories, who doesn't want to touch them; and who doesn't want to talk about anything that is obviously important to him, instead indulging in a vast variety of atrocious avoidance strategies. It's as though he is the Worst Patient Ever: his paranoia and hatred of the therapist, his resentment of the possibility of actually getting somewhere and achieving some peace are astounding.
a pleasant man in his fifties, indeed covered with soot, indeed with black brushes of various kinds. And even a blackened, grimy cloth to protect the carpet – although it didn't look as though it would protect much, he's clearly been doing this for years, as the room looked fine when he left.
I gave him a cup of tea, which seemed appreciated (the milk was really rice milk – I don't have real milk in the house, as I can't drink it – but I've learned long ago that you don't tell people that, you just pour it in). We chatted about various things – the only thing I forgot was to touch him (touch a sweep for luck, they used to say).
It was fascinating to hear him talking about fires, from the 1960s in this area – because the fire in the grate was the only way of heating the house, well into the 1970s; which is why there's no flue cover (the fire was always going in the winter). He talked about drying his football clothes after they'd been washed, and trying to keep them from getting scorch marks.
Of course, as an ardent (ex-) Californian, I shudder at the idea of depending on a fireplace – of banking the fire up in the morning to bring the room up from, say, the forties to the low sixties. But it's an impressive bit of personal history....
A day of haze: last night my guts were grinding and exploding, from what I don't know, so I took a tiny pill of codeine phosphate – it worked, but as always it made me hazy, put me to sleep, and then this morning I was still groggy until afternoon.
A day of confusion and avoidance, unwilling to respond to e-mailed requests (fortunately few).
Then tonight again, my stomach exploding again – what? – what's going on? – I don't know, but I do know this: I ate grilled chicken and root vegetables for dinner – what could possibly be undigestible about that? So: don't blame the food.
And no, I refuse to believe that I'm allergic to pepper and salt and a mix of herbes de provence.
In between these nights, sort of floating. Thinking of various things, nothing in a very focused way; on television, French and Saunders do an amusing (and obviously expensively produced) parody of Fellini – but it just makes me want the real thing.
So I make a list, and am surprised to realize I only have five of Fellini's films on hand – I want to see them all, at least the ones after 1960. Did you know that Fellini read Jung in the late 1950s, which is what made him turn from his neo-realist style to the fantasies of La Dolce Vita? My friends Merrie and Bennett managed to shock me slightly when they said they tried to watch Satyricon and didn't like it – how could anyone possibly not like Satyricon? I forgive them, however.
But, as I've taken another codeine pill, I won't be able to stay awake to see a film. Started reading Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars (and this should tell you how much of a book fetishist I really am – I own both versions; and, despite any apparent gender inequity, the male is filed before the female on the shelf. Well, they can't both go first.).
I don't really like most magic realism in books; which is peculiar, because I love 'real' fantasy, when it's well done (i.e. Tolkien, or Mirrlees, or Cabell, or the books in Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks – not that garbage strewn across the shelves of W. H. Smith's.) (In fact, last week I had a £5 coupon for a book at W. H. Smith's – I went in there and, for the life of me, couldn't find anything worth buying).
However, I'm enjoying the Pavic a bit more than I thought I would – perhaps I'll get into it more this time.
Perhaps it helps to be thinking more of Jung, and archetypes, and dreams, and fantasies.
And perhaps it helps, most of all, to take a little pill of codeine....
Four in the morning: my stomach is bothering me (was it the soy sauce?).
Restless, stretches of time in bed sectioned with looks at computer screens and taking various books off the shelves.
I keep looking through the five shelves of poetry for just what I want to read: I don't know what it is but will know it (perhaps) when I see it –
not Anne Carson, a new name, she gets too visceral at points; not Cavafy, Auden, Rilke. Something calm and perfect, beautifully made, but not upsetting: almost but not quite like some of Pound's Personae. (And absolutely nothing anywhere in the worlds of Plath, Sexton, Eliot – all way too upsetting, utterly not what I'm looking for at the moment).
Most modern Western poems don't fit my mood: the desperation of individuals trying to arouse the great public of a too-crowded world to listen, listen, listen – all too passionate, dramatic and shrill. Or tragic. None of those things, not now: some kind of poem that is like a dream, and a calm one, glassy and fascinating.
Perhaps like that wonderful one by Charles Wright – what is it – 'Snow' I think.
I hear you saying: well you want haiku, don't you?... no, too clichéd. Even Basho is too artificial in English.
Milosz, maybe, as he remains calm: not the long poems, but something short. I don't want to be led into a long disquisition on time and everything that is.
Or maybe best: a small pile of books, those blessedly slim and graceful poetry books, put on the shelf next to my bed....
An e-mail arrives, from persons unknown, from parts unknown – subject heading: "Hey sexy music prof."
No, it's not spam – or at least not mass-produced spam.
A viola player, from the US; his website shows him to be a cheerful bear type, with a beard (I'm a sucker for facial hair – can barely see men who don't have facial hair, but tend to be an easy mark for any who do) and startlingly blue eyes.
He tells me he thinks I'm cute –
I parry: it's an old photograph.
But I am polite: thank you though.
He ripostes: I'll be in London in November, are you near there –
a double parry: no, I'm nowhere near, it's as far as Detroit to New York – culturally anyway;
and I'll be in the US on those dates anyway.
He still wants my number, he wants to call some day, in a fit of amorous energy.
Very well, then....
Isn't it in Peter Beagle's masterwork The Last Unicorn, where the wizard Schmendrick is tied to a tree – and the tree somehow falls in love with him, by contact apparently – the wizard excuses himself with the fiction of an arranged marriage, to a mountain larch – and the tree swells with jealous rage, to kill him with his bonds – and so the lovely line: "... gave himself up for loved"?