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Showing posts from November 17, 2013

psychiatry and vodka

Back when I was a teenage moron, I did what morons do: I took certain books, which must be understood from under the weight of some experience, and swallowed them whole, believing everything from the acknowledgements to the letter z in the index. One of those books was Thomas Szasz’s The Myth of Mental Illness. I was a high school debater. Debate in those days, and who knows, probably now, also has a speech division, and I decided I would compete in the persuasive speaking contest by presenting arguments that mental illness was a myth, relying upon Dr. Szasz. So, full of the piss and vinegar of my seventeen years, I stood at the podium and made this argument for the requisite amount of time. My audience consisted,  I remember, of the judge and I believe two other contestents. I don’t remember what they said, and I don’t remember what the judge looked like. I do remember, however, that I had an early premonition that I was not born to be one of life’s persuaders when the judge came to


My private criteria for sorting the great works from the less great is that the less great are built to be finished. I just finished reading an Elmore Leonard novel that began, conversed, and tied up all its ends in a completely satisfying way. I can say, without compunction, that I finished it. I’ve never, on the other hand, finished any novel of Beckett’s. I’ve read, it is true, Ulysses maybe ten times in my life, but each reading has given me   different book. To finish Ulysses would be like finishing looking at Notre Dame. There are, of course, the small, fierce books that one can finish, but that take a lot of moves from the unfinishable works. Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District here. Poems that I love are built on the unfinishable principle as well. Perhaps this is why I love waste literature – Lichtenberg’s scribble books, Rozanov’s fallen leaves, Ludwig Hohl, Wittgenstein. Waste is something thrown away and thus supposedly finished – but the waste book takes as its princ