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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Wednesday June 02, 2004
01:26 AM

Writing on the brain

[ #19042 ]
Dear Log,

«The question that looms over The Midnight Disease is the extent to which writing, and the moods stemming from it, can be traced to brain abnormality. Sometimes Dr. Flaherty appears convinced that they can be. She concentrates on writers known to have had epilepsy, Dostoevsky and Flaubert notable among them. She confidently (and, in my opinion, crudely) diagnoses Henry James as "a unipolar depressive," and speculates about what might happen to J. D. Salinger’s famous decades-long block if he took an anti-depressive like Paxil (how does she know that he is not already on it, and that it has not stopped him permanently from writing?).

Quoting various experts on the question of literary motivation, she cites the belief of one of them, Hanna Segal, that (in Dr. Flaherty’s paraphrase) "artistic creation is a response to the emptiness of depression." Even as she worries whether the tendency to treat writing as an "abnormal brain state" is a wise thing to do, or whether it does not amount to "pathologizing an activity that should be praised," pathologizing, I fear, is what she finally does.

Certainly we have plenty of psychologically wounded writers: Dostoevsky, Melville, Baudelaire, Conrad. Then there are the drunks: Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and countless others. And let us not forget the dear drug addicts: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas DeQuincey, William S. Burroughs, and the entire charmless Beat generation.

At one point, Dr. Flaherty remarks that depression among writers is eight to ten times higher than among the general population. My own nonscientific response to this is that it makes very good sense, since there must be eight to ten times more people writing than there ought to be. These people, being in the wrong line of work, have earned their depression.»

--"Writing on the Brain"

I feel sorry for all the people in history who didn't have Super-Nintendoes or Internet porn. I'm just saying, is all.

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