"...out from the barrio
you hear my rhythm on your radio..."
smooth / supernatural
To: Lauren Slater
Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir
Welcome to My Country: A Therapist's Memoir of Madness
From: Christopher Locke
The Bombast Transcripts: Rants & Screeds of RageBoy
Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices
The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual
You don't know me. Having just finished Lying, I lead with the obvious, and it somehow seems, if not appropriate (none of this will be, if I hit my mark, by any measure), at least in the spirit of the thing you've done. That is, of play. As in the one that, though she feels she's in, she is anyway.
Anyway. What a book. In the early pages, I repeatedly thought to review it (late as I am to the party) with a title like maybe Jesus This Woman Can Write! But then we would have two statements of the obvious, the second perhaps sounding even a bit sexist, and certainly suspicious in its none too subtle semaphore that I'm in any position to judge. Though I am, nonetheless, and from that self-appointed, uncredentialled position, I feel confident in reporting that you are a fucking stone genius. Though you know that too.
I was grateful, and laughed, at your slippery aside on page 138-39, regarding your skill as a writer "...which was, I now see," you say, "an idea overwrought and ridiculous and possibly even entirely fraudulent, even though, dear reader, well, I do have some talent, wouldn't you say?"
I would. Thanks for asking. However, I am deeply shocked that you would so boldly lift whole sections of my unpublished manuscripts. How did you manage to get your hands on them? At first I considered legal action, but that was before I fell in love with you. So listen, no hard feelings. I'm just curious. Especially as none of it was written down yet.
I feel I should explain myself. I often feel I should do that, but then tell myself it's impossible. Perhaps this is why I found your book so disturbing. While it's true that Dr. Krieger warns us (twice) of that likely reaction in his thoughtful if brief introduction, it sounded like the sort of thing one reads in blurbs ("oh sure, I'd be happy to write something ..."), and I was not at all prepared for the disturbance as, in fact (though naturally we could argue this), you delivered it.
I read the book today, all day, savoring your amazing language, your images, sounds, smells, tastes. I felt your orgasm, hard and true. And I would not have looked at you the way that other Christopher did. I feel I should explain myself. But where to begin? As you must have asked yourself a million times. Two million? Perhaps with the disturbance that became palpable as I neared the end of the book. Shin pan. Yes, I read the others too. But this time it was much closer to the bone, much closer to, as Alice Miller says, bless her pointy little head, annihilation. When I finished reading, I called my analyst. He's a Jungian, but I think you might like him. The weird thing is, among many weird things in my recent life I've lately been referring to collectively (I hope not unconsciously) as Synchronicity City... the weird thing is that in your afterword you address, uncannily and precisely, those very questions I've been obsessed with for the past three or four months. Including, yes, autism. Autism! (It is related, strange as it may seem. But not to you. Or me. To them. Ditto crop circles. I know you will understand this.) And I called three good friends, all women (who could either confirm or deny my sexism, if you'd like references; though one is an angel and thus must remain anonymous), to warn them about this book, how genuinely, authentically, truly dangerous it is. No lie. And recommend, no demand, that they read it immediately if they want to keep being my friends. I'm a little intense that way. The life of a repo man is always intense.
I had to go out. Get out of the house. Drive, breathe fresh air. Drink espresso. Buy books. I was disturbed all right. And perhaps you can tell how deeply by the books I ended up buying: Attachment in Adults, and The Construction of the Self. Both from The Guilford Press, so: pricey and dense, just the way I like em. And ever so reassuring. Really. I'm not being facetious. Bowlby and Mahler and Winnicott and Kernberg. I did a lot of acid trying to erase my childhood. I've never been to Viet Nam. Or Heaven, or even Oklahoma. Nonetheless, I want to shake your hand. I want to say welcome to my country. As you welcomed me. Your voice so unexpected. What a rush.
I did go to Tokyo, though, where I got sober about two weeks and nineteen years ago. Word. Though I'm not epileptic. Or anything serious, really. That's what I would have told you 16 months back. Fine, never better. I would have said Bowlby? Judith Herman? Who the fuck are they? It was all a surprise when the roof caved in. I mean, you'd think nearly two decades of drug-free stone-cold sobriety would have counted for something. You wouldn't think I'd be sitting around today trying to kick Effexor and Ativan. I wouldn't have thought. I'm betting these are lines you can read between without breaking too much of a sweat.
So I laughed out loud at some of your AA vignettes. Telling the truth so you could get sober. Jesus! Irony doesn't get any better. I wrote a little story about AA once. It's in Bombast, called "Sex Rears Its Ugly Head." I was talking to these 300 drunks in Pittsburgh, telling, as the formula goes, what it was like, what happened, and what it was like now (actually, then), and I didn't have a clue what I was going to say. I started with being raised Catholic (I could smell the churches you describe, feel the satin wood of the pew backs, rubbed down to waxy bone by old ladies genuflecting) and, as a result of that, how sex had always been, risking felonious understatement, a big deal. "Just wait," Mom would always say, I told those Steel Town boozers, "until sex rears its ugly head!" I stopped at this point in my "talk," maybe just five minutes into it, not knowing where this was going, only that I knew I must tell the truth, the whole truth. And I said, you know, I was maybe four years old. I had no idea what sex was. Only that it had an ugly head. The place exploded. I don't think I've ever heard laughter so out of control. Not that I'd ever precipitated. And I hadn't planned it. Just came out that way. Like so much of Lying, I wish I'd thought of it myself.
So yeah, I know a little about that. Haven't been to a meeting in over ten years. Fuck alcoholism. I don't drink or take (recreational) drugs. Unless you count cigarettes and coffee. Unless you count, well, lima beans and bananas, let's say. I'm not interested in getting well. In achieving serenity or enlightenment or even, truth be told, in understanding what or who I am. Not really. Curious, sure, as I said. But no hard feelings.
I also know a little about marketing, as you will see from the
list of my books at the start of this. So I was thrilled to see
that you gave your publisher what for on how to market your book.
Good for you! These slouching beasts must be spoken to roughly or
they understand nothing. Probably both. I liked especially
(though these of course require 1-16, and the entire life they so
hopefully, so insistently, stand in for, to achieve their full
17. My memoir please. Sell it as nonfiction, please.
I was stunned. Because this is where I am too. Right here! It's too much of a coincidence to be just a coincidence, don't you think? Synchronicity City. I tried to explain this in the cluetrain manifesto...
18. Look here.
19. This is where I am.
Thesis #5: Human beings recognize each other as such from
the sound of this voice.
...but nobody got it. I mean, the part I've emphasized above, which emphasis was not in the original. Thinking they would get it without the extra decoration. Thus I reiterate. Hopefully and insistently. And so yeah, und so weiter, that is to say, I know just what you mean.
And here's another little-known marketing tip; unknown, in fact, as far as I've been able to determine, outside the constricting confines of my own skull: the definitive marker of nonfiction is the inclusion -- overinclusion, if you will -- of an INDEX. Clancy and Grisham, Danielle Steele and that lot do not have indices, do they? QED. It's so simple. And yet no one, I can assure you, in the marketing departments of Ford or General Electric or Microsoft, has ever thought about this for one second. Well... maybe Microsoft, as Windows is clearly a work of fiction. So, willing suspension, benefit of the doubt. I guess.
Which diversion brings me (a little closer) to why I felt so disturbed toward the end of your book. I didn't get it till later, after the espresso at Barnes & Noble, flirting with this very young girl there -- I told her to buy Prozac Diary, and she did. Later, going back to where she was sitting and giving her a copy of my book, with the big-face picture on the cover. She was clearly impressed, which felt great, I don't mind telling you, even if my gesture was a bit overwrought and ridiculous, possibly even fraudulent. She thought I was just some guy. I didn't have the heart to tell her she was right. Illusion, as you have shown so well, is hardly ever what it seems.
What spooked me, disturbed me, was this. That I thought you were maybe about to Find the Answer. Get It. And then, having fallen in love with you, I would (re)experience abandonment -- real or imagined, as the DSM IV puts it. Is that rich or what? Real or imagined. Like they've got some magic yardstick to gauge that sort of thing. Yup, that was the real deal. Nope, you imagined everything. Real? I'll give em REAL! From the barrel of a sniper-scoped 30-aught-six. Get well soon! Ah, no, I wouldn't really do that. If I'd been going to, I would have done it last year. Whew! Close one. You know? I guess I'm not really the homicidal type after all. You learn so much about yourself in these crisis situations. So that was what I was worried about in your book: that you were going to suddenly go all New Age on me in the end. And then, as they say (usually joking), I would have to kill you.
I have this problem with boundaries, you see. Fall in love too fast, too easily. Without knowing much about the Other Person. I guess I never noticed that relationships were a problem. Or I did, but then I'd forget and do it over again. Repetition compulsion. Hell, like just reading someone's book and deciding she'd understand me. Has to make you a little nervous, doesn't it? Someone comes on that way. Thinks he sees himself in you, your experience, your words, and sends you an open letter via 10,000 or so closest pals on the internet, betting at least one of them will get it to you in less than 24 hours. OK, 36. I've learned to be patient. I can wait.
That's why I was so glad to read you'd already found a man who loves you. This intensity, this impulsivity, I mean. I was glad for you, honestly, truly, authentically glad. For you. No lie. But also a little relieved. For me. Because otherwise I would feel compelled to find you, track you down. Fly to Boston and read to you from your own books, show you how I have learned to never cry no matter what, show you the places I would have were I not so... disciplined, so in utter unflinching control. Tell you you don't have to be anyone with me. And mean it in a way few even know about. You do. Unravel, fall, go out and out and never come back. Ever. Back? Why back? Where back to? There is no back. Love, real or imagined. All you need.
Imagine my relief, then, that we don't need to do that. Strangers hooking up with even stranger strangers. I am grateful to that man of yours, whom, more importantly, you have learned to love. That's wonderful. No tongue in cheek. No PoMo irony. No joke. And it's not just some well meaning renunciation, either. Though I do know how to do that one, too; under certain conditions; certain phases of the moon. Working on being able to do it at will. Like falling. How fitting. Letting go of the panic, which is not about anything so simple as my mother being, like yours, a narcissist. Or the love of my life (if you will forgive the naivete), so I thought for the last 20 years, turning out to be, yes, another -- can you believe it? -- fucking narcissist! Or that I really do feel abandoned out here. Or anything like that. And terrified whenever I look down.
Down? There is no down. I act "as if" there were no down. I liked how you worked that in. Helene Deutsch v. AA. How would you have explained it, anyway? A throw-away, then. Almost. But I do have some talent for reading you, dear reader. Wouldn't you say? And if on a winter's night, a traveler... But then, I say that to all the girls. I do. Confessin' the blues. And nothing but the truth.
And besides, think of the fights we'd have! There is nothing worse than epistemology for lovers' quarrels. Ontology. Phylogeny. Genetics. Evolutionary "psychology." Better it should be another woman. Another man. Something simple. Something real, not imagined. Something shaken, not stirred. Boy's the name. Rage Boy. Homo ludens. Magister Ludi. Puer aeternus. Out from the barrio. Those Latin rhythms on your radio. What can I tell you? Progress not perfection.
Did I not promise you inappropriate? Have I not kept my word? I loved your book, that's all I wanted to say. And I loved you, reading it. But Lauren, I don't think we're right for each other. I really really do have all those dire disorders you list on that penultimate page. I would look at your hands and think they were mine. I would get tangled up in your life and you wouldn't know, until it was far too late, how I got there. True, you would find yourself laughing more, spacing out, coming hard and sure and sweet, dissociating in a most pleasant way; you are skilled in this already, too. But then, the reverie would pop, like the world you mention coming into being just like that, Buffalo Bill, and you'd find yourself thinking "What the fuck? This is not my beautiful house!" And there you'd go, plagiarizing again. Falling back into those old bad habits. No nun intended.
It's clear that you've worked hard to get where you are today. You're a hell of a writer, and yes, as you know (what can I tell you that you don't already?) a genius (which, frankly, scares me; I can't even spell Kierkegaard without looking it up; and Kant? are you kidding?) I hate to say it, but you just don't need me in your life at this juncture. Trust me. So I guess we should just say goodbye, then.
Or at least take it slow.
flux et veritas,