Monday, June 9, 2008


It takes less than a paragraph for Rivka Galchen to convince us that the protagonist of her novel, Atmospheric Disturbances, is less than reliable, piquing our curiosity to the zenith by allowing us to know that he is an M.D. with a practice in psychiatry. What does Leo Leibenstein have in mind, we wonder as we are pulled into the vortex of his mind.

And what a mind it is. In the next few paragraphs, we become convinced that Leo is a lunatic, and so we are drawn yet farther as we see that, lunatic or not, Leo still thinks like a scientist. All of which means we see the science of thesis, hypothesis, experiment, peer review, statement as providing some hope that there will be yet adder understanding about who we are and how we work.

I began my review of Atmospheric Disturbances with a trope from another individual who rides that cusp between lunacy and genius, William Blake, the poet, artist, print maker of eighteenth century England. The Tiger, Tiger William Blake.

Kermit the Frog finds it less than easy being green, Blake certainly did not have to worry about being put up for Parliament, and well before him, Giambatista Vico had the loneliness of creating his philosophy ad science more or less alone, as an unreliable narrator. The more reliable we find narrators, male or female, the less we become concerned with their emotional stats and trough an odd process of elimination, we become aware that we are accordingly less likely to learn anything about our own emotional states. At all stags of our evolution from child to adolescent, we are admonished if not urged to act our age as though mere chronology imparts some hyperawareness to us that will render us the better able to cope with--the problems of our given age. Nay, not merely problems but vicissitudes, the changes, the ever widening gyre. Acting our chronological age, it is argued, will see us through the vicissitudes as though those can be charted on the equivalent of a tide chart or an ephemerides.

I believe in and work at keeping my word, which I take to mean I can be trusted to do as I say I will do--unless I change my mind or unless I can view the sea of reality about me as a new experience in which my word is still to be given. I believe in keeping a bit of lunacy as a traveling companion.

Perhaps there is a state of grace in which one can achieve a trustworthy lunacy. I wish to distinguish this lunatic quality from the delusional state so admirably achieved by so many about me, men and women who have given up their individual lunacy and bought instead into the more companionable and conventional comforts of group delusion, where their politics become trying to demonstrate a greater delusion to the point even of speaking in delusional tongues, which pretty well defines Republicanism.

The Vicissitudes.

Dire Straits.

Deep End.

The Lesser Evil.

The Grand Conundrum

All places off the map of convention, places where we may howl forth at the moon with glorious impunity.

I have had my opportunity at Normality and respond to it as some do to Summer camp it is not the place for me. If Heaven exists, it has been developed by the entrepreneurs of Normality, it has golf courses and Starbucks, and I can do without normality and golf and Starbucks.

1 comment:

Wild Iris said...

I didn't see "Between a rock and a hard place" or "Point of no return" listed there, or perhaps they're a little further off the map than is necessary for the point you are making here. My personal favorite however is "There be dragons here." My attitude is, "Let's go hunting."

How's that for lunacy?