But I know that many of us are going through something now, I am not alone, and some of you are waiting for spring, feeling stuck still in grayness or winter. So as I've been doing I tried to think of a gem from what I was working on/learning about today. I could show you a page from Flaubert's letters - because oh my god did he write a lot about fucking and sucking. I had no idea what a horny man Flaubert was, and how into the hookers he was (tonight if I can bear bathtub reading I am planning on looking at Francis Steegmuller's work on Flaubert and Julian Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot, also a biography of his mistress Louise Colet, a writer as well).
But I thought I'd share a passage from one of my favorite modernist novels of madness, Emily Holmes Coleman's The Shutter of Snow, which Dalkey has reissued (Coleman a fascinating figure, a passionate diarist and letter writer who was once a secretary for Emma Goldman and was Djuna Barnes' biggest champion and sort of literary agent for Nightwood). The work is partially taken from her experience being institutionalized in the 20s following childbirth, and it offers a really vivid and quite expressionistic and sometimes hilarious view into the community of women on the violent wing of a mental ward, and of psychosis (I would compare it to the gorgeousness of Janet Frame's Faces in the Water). Anyway, the main character Marthe is supposed to have one of her interviews, kind of like the scene at the end of The Bell Jar, and the doctor interviewing her asks her why she's in there (she replies, Because I think I'm Jesus Christ, as she does), and then he asks her where she is. And she answers (Coleman doesn't use traditional quotation marks or often punctuation, so seems to switch from third to first person with her narrator, adding to this sort of delirious inside effect, a lot of the rhythms reminded me of Ann Quin's Berg):
My dear doctors, I am sure that as alienists you have no superiors. But surely when its written all over the sheets, and the blankets, and the laundry bags, not to mention the letters I receive from home, you cannot believe that I dont know this is the Gorestown State Hospital of Gorestown. I may be insane but I protest Im not feeble-minded.
You can go said Dr Armitage. (I shall be gone.)
If in departing I may be allowed to mention she said, that such violently checkered socks do not go well with such a dazzlingly striped tie (being an alienist of reputation you must think of these things) I am sure you will not take offence. Perhaps we should speak to Mrs. Armitage.
There isnt any Mrs Armitage called out Dr Brainerd from the chorus.
Marthe rose from her chair. Dr Armitage got up and bent over her head. Goodbye Mrs Gail he said, I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing you soon again. She shook his head and held it for a moment. My dear Dr Armitage she said, when I have risen from the dead and have restored my kingdom upon earth, if I can do anything for you or yours a word from you will be considered of the utmost importance. He does not know my heart.
Miss Macauley snatched her arm and rushed her out.
I love this - the sly wit and deviousness of it, the ability to act sane but the desire not to be contained.Or despite experiencing psychosis her sanity intelligence and wit.