Reading dates: 24 January – 28 March 2016
Reading Dora’s case history, reading it with real attention, is the first step of my ghosting method, the one I adopted to develop a one to one durational piece, Ida, which I showed as part of Buzzcut festival on Friday 8 April 2016. What happened when I performed it is for another post.
Reading in this way, trying to find Ida’s voice in between the lines of Dora is exhausting. It is like tracing every single letter with my hands and questioning each word’s meaning. I had read Dora before, but never like this. I feel I embroidered the whole book (maybe that’s my next piece). But the story is fascinating. I let her live in me, I lent her my mouth to speak her words, my body for her to breathe again. I was possessed by this story and when the spirit left me, I was limp, empty. But I had to let her speak. Her analysis, as we have it, is only a fragment, it is incomplete, and often Freud’s interpretations infuriated me (oh the reticule, so easy, so so easy!). I wrote him out of my piece. I listened to him, but like one listens when one is paying attention to something else that is more important.
While reading, I distilled her voice, and wrote her words by hand. This is very important. By hand, with my hand. Then I typed them and then I recorded them, with my voice. Then I listened to them and put my own voice back in my body, through my ears. I looked for Ida in Freud’s words. I found her, recorded her her voice, made it mine. We mixed, to the point that I lost the sense of where she was and where I began. She was not in me. She was like adding salt to water. The water becomes something else and I think she transformed me forever. Reading is one thing, but reading with one’s whole body is something that I know I need to take sparingly and with care, for I offer myself, I give myself up to an other which, in this case, is disturbed by betrayal (a disturbance I also share). I now need to find a way of taking the salt out of the water without evaporating. Is that even possible? An exorcism?
Reading dates: 19 February–26 March 2016
There are two elemental forces in the universe. One draws matter toward matter. That is how life comes into being and how it propagates. In physics, this force is called gravity; in psychology, love. The other force tears matter apart. It is the force of disunification, disintegration, destruction. If I’m correct, every planet, every star in the universe is not only drawn toward the others by gravity, but laos pushed away from them by a force of repulsion we can’t see.
I seem to be on a path of awarding 3 stars to every crime novel I read, yet, these stars are given (or two taken away) for very different reasons. The Death Instinct is a very competent novel, set in New York in the 1920s at the time of the Treasury bomb. The narration is very well research and fact and fiction merge seamlessly, coherently and in a very dramatic way. Freud as a character is again joyous to read (as in Rubenfeld’s previous novel ‘The Interpretation of Murder’) and well researched. Even the resolution to the mystery is reasonable. It is certainly better that the Frank Tallis novels I read. Yet, it is just that, literarily just above average. Good research, interesting characters, reasonable writing and a vibrant story don’t make a book I want to re-read. There is something missing here, some flair, some risk, something. Perhaps it is the point of view. The narrator is omniscient so we don’t know anyone very well. Perhaps it is the construction, acceptable but also standard. And Freud was anything but those things: omniscient or standard. He deserved a little better I think.
Reading dates: 01–28 January 2016
This is a delightful graphic novel which, although necessarily simplifying the many facets of hysteria according to Freud, is also able to give a glimpse of its complexity and its problems. I liked the focus on cases, the historical narrative intermingled with ghosts from the past and the future. It is beautifully written and drawn, literary but, as ever with hysteria, also romanticised. This is especially evident in the choice of giving the ghost of Princess Diana a voice and I wonder if more could have been done with it and with Freud’s own hysteria. My main problem with it is the glaring omission of Dora, one of Freud’s most important patients and his Irene Adler. I suspect this might be because she gets a book of her own, eventually. Even with this thought, she should be at least alluded to in this work. Drawn or mentioned, pointed at. But, of course, this is a graphic novel about Freud, and not hysteria, isn’t it? The process, the method, the research get the time and space.
Don’t Say Anything, a durational performance piece as part of the exhibition ‘This House has been Far Out at Sea’, Laurieston Arches, Glasgow. 2-4 May 2015, 12–6 with a late night on Sunday.
I will return to Frau Emmy von N. the words Sigmund Freud wrote in his famous case history about her. She will tell you her story of hysteria in the first person, just as Emmy would have told it to Freud in 1889.
As part of Glasgow Open House Festival.
Reading dates: 1 – 4 January 2015
How wonderful to start the year with a superb book. My dear friend Ian Macbeth gave me this for my birthday a couple of years ago. Many people had mentioned it to me but he did not hesitate: it was a book for me, and he was right. I could have read this in a single sitting but my mind whirled around too much. It is an intense graphic novel, a raw memoir of discoveries and insights. It is very sensitively put together – and I mean put together because the drawings tell the story as much as the words. Bechdel weaves her autobiography and family memories, making parallels with books and writers. The echoes of Oscar Wilde, Colette, and more importantly, Joyce’s Ulysses made me not only enjoy this book but also want to read and re-read some of the ones she mentions. What would I do without books … Together with my own body (and I am not sure about this one for every cell in it is renewed every seven years), books feel the only constant in my life. I have always read, I always return to books. This love of reading is evident in Fun Home and it made me feel very close to the narrative. Perhaps even closer than the main theme, Alison’s relation with her father. Although that was very resonant too, for we all come from a father, known or unknown.
I read Are you my mother? first, the story of her other progenitor. Lovers of Fun Home kept telling me they found the maternal line heavy handed. I enjoyed both, but I agree that the paternal story is closer in identification, more fluid, less reasoned. Dare I say, more loving? The two together, with their green and red hues, are a good example and satisfactory resolution of the Oedipus Complex, rigorously exemplified and tenderly drawn.
I could write a lot more about her theory of his suicide and his homosexuality but I don’t want to reveal too much to those I know are reading this and the book at the same time.* For Fun Home is that kind of book: the kind you lend as soon as you finish.
*If anyone wants to, though, I am happy to go into it, preferably with a glass of wine, for it might long and precise. Write below!
A paper I wrote with the wonderful Christopher Danowski has been published in issue 0 of ELSE, an international art, literature, theory and creative media journal. The image on the cover is also a hybrid, like the writing: Chris’ head and my décolletage. Thank god there is a fair amount of Lacan in our paper to analyse that. Have a look at this smart publication here (free but needing registration) and consider submitting. The deadline for the issue on contemplation is 1 January 2015.
Reading dates: 5 September – 24 October 2014
When Gilman-Opalsky kept referring to a book by Julia Kristeva I never heard of, I made my mind up to chose this when my turn came in our Dialectical Materialism book group. This is a book of interviews and, I am going to be honest, it was not my most inspiring choice for our discussion. I cannot understand why it is Gilman-Opalsky’s main reference. The book is repetitive and depends very much on the interviewer and his questions. Kristeva is good, and she has some very interesting insights into psychoanalysis, art and May 68 but in a format like this it is difficult to make an argument consistently. I chose a question and answer form for the last chapter of my PhD and I think it worked to deepen the understanding of what I had been raising in previous chapters but, then again, I was writing both the questions and answers, creating characters that fit the argument itself. Of all the interviewers, I got the sense that the first – Philippe Petit – did not like her at all, so was out to get her (note this is MY sense), the second – Rainer Ganahl – was the best but his text was too short and the third –Rubén Gallo – was far too wordy; Kristeva lost heart with her answers. I felt for her, as our discussion also lost heart. But how do you chose a book for a book group? Do you chose something you have already read and you know is good, or do you risk and grab something you are curious about (which is what I did). This time, my risk did not pay off despite the fact that I had trusted Gilman-Opalsky (and liked his book), but that does not mean I did not enjoy the discussion.
Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures by Mark Fisher *** — 21 Sep 2014
Reading dates: 08 June – 21 September 2014
I read this during a very special summer in my life. A close, loved and much admired person died young and unexpectedly, taken away by a devastating cancer in 3 months. Meanwhile, my country, the one I live in, was gearing to the most important decision in many years, perhaps ever: whether to break the United Kingdom and become independent, or (as it turned out on 18 September) not.
On the 10th June and following my invitation, Mark Fisher came to speak to the Glasgow School of Art where I work. I wanted to read his last book when I met him. This is a book on possible, lost futures, those that could have been and, at the same time, are and are not; a book on ghosts; a book on ontology. How apt for my summer. The book is divided into three sections for, broadly, the 70s, sounds and places. While I devoured 1 and 3, the second section was beyond me. Mark is an accomplished writer but I found it very hard to read on dubstep and house music, on artists I never heard of (literally). I did find them on youtube, and listened to get a sense, but that did not help my impasse. My advance through section 2 was very slow. I did adore his essays on Patrick Keiller, John le Carré, W. G. Sebald, David Peace and Christopher Nolan, despite his choices being the usual boys (boys I like, but still, always the same). He reveals insights, is well read, writes with care and precision and weaves philosophical, psychoanalytic and cultural thoughts to create a very good collection of essays, if you share with him his object of study. If not, the writing is still good, but the ideas are too abstract. Perhaps this is one of those books where some of the chapters would work better in the original form, as blog posts: linking feels an essential part of the process of reading, as Masha Tupitsyn did in her book Love Dog.
Reading dates: 23 April – 17 May 2014
I very much enjoyed reading Roudinesco’s appraisal of Lacan’s legacy, thirty years after his death. Only a psychoanalysis historian like her, author of Lacan’s biography, could take such a challenge in 224 pages. She gives an admirable account of Lacan’s ideas in short chapters, focusing on the family, womanhood and sexuality, Antigone, and his love of objects, for example. She mixes his life, his reception and his thought with his context thirty years ago and what it means now. She does this in a clear and accessible way. Yet, this book is not for the faint hearted. It is, I think, for the well-read Lacanian scholar. This is what made me enjoy it. I understood the familiar Lacanian turn of phrase, the inferences, in short, what Dany Nobus calls Lacanese. Without this, the book would be hard work, I think, quirky perhaps, but also impenetrable. For the Lacanians among us, it is provocative but measured, critical in a soft way and a good overview in a few pages. It reads like a review of his oeuvre and, as such, made me want to go back to the master (and subvert him), to re-read Encore, Seminar VII, and Kant avec Sade.