Thursday, February 21, 2008

"The hidden is more interesting": Three case studies


[...]The paragraph quoted above is followed directly by a breathtaking instant of self-exposure: “For me,” Marsh writes, “to see this sour Dave Dexter Jr. is to remember the face of my father.”

My marginal note at that point: Marsh comes clean? Could this explain the gouts of contempt he sprays at Dexter’s ghost, the extremity of which have by this late point rendered the book irretrievably unpleasant? Marsh has written elsewhere — in this and other books — about his father, a Rust Belt racist (“angry,” “square,” “rednecked”) who hated rock ‘n’ roll, belittled his son for loving it, and withal was a working-class exemplar of “jaundiced snobbery and proud ignorance.” Now, father-hatred could be a compelling psychological explanation for the anti-Dexter excess. But no. Marsh lets fall the clear implication, refusing to follow up the psychic connection he has himself made and to which the reader is inevitably drawn — if only because its suggestion of the hidden is more interesting than what Marsh has made visible. —Devin McKinney on Dave Marsh, Hey Dullblog

Reich’s preference for the exaggerated, at least in part, led him down the orgonomic path of starry-eyed prophetic cloud-busting. Reich’s story can thus be read as kind of allegory about psychoanalytic thought itself. Reich took up the least appealing parts of Freud and pursued them to their most absurd ends. Our inclination to ridicule Reich every few years becomes a way of conducting proxy skirmishes in the perpetual debate about Freud’s legacy and relevance. When we exaggerate the discontinuity in Reich’s life, casting him in dual mythical roles as Freud’s most promising student and Freud’s most berserk deserter, we seem to be staking out our own ambivalence to Freud’s discomfiting ideas. We incarnate in one person what seems most preposterous about psychoanalysis, and then we place that person at once as close to and as far away from Freud as we can. —Gideon Lewis-Kraus on Wilhelm Reich, Nextbook

I think something curious and heretofore unacknowledged has been taking place, an unconscious disavowal on the part of some viewers and critics—a phenomenon that could make for a chapter in The Discovery of the Art of the Insane. Through misquoting, mishearing, and misreading, people have turned this careful scholar into a veritable Kinbote, a moral scapegoat to whom can be assigned all the darkest theories—as if he were the one who had applied the delicate wash of watercolor blood at the base of a severed head, or imagined the force-feeding of body parts to children. What do we want from John MacGregor? Perhaps this: to saddle him with all our deepest anxieties about the possible actions of Henry Darger, so that the madman-scholar can be rejected with a show of presumptuous indignation. It is the secret expiation required to enjoy Darger without tears. —EP on Henry Darger and John MacGregor, PTSNBNES

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