In the same way God is in the Cracks: A Narrative in Voices (Black Moss Press, 2006) is sequenced to form a book-length narrative, one “best read in the order printed,” I am planning on doing something similar with Dr. Sward’s Cure for Melancholia. The characters, Dr. Sward (a podiatrist), melancholic son, and even the family dog, take on a life of their own.
The book necessarily has highs and lows and the clinically depressed son is bound to reveal himself as in desperate need of help. That’s part of the drama. And we’re speaking here of a work in progress.
The story has an arc, a beginning (suicidal fucked-up son), a middle (muddling through, trying to find what he believes is missing, the __ pieces) and an end that delivers on what the title promises, Dr. Sward’s Cure for Melancholia.
In a New York Times review of Conversations with Woody Allen, Nov. 18, 2007, David Kamp, the reviewer, says, “The working title of his most acclaimed film, Annie Hall, was ‘Anhedonia,’ meaning the inability to experience pleasure.”
Rings a bell with me. Anhedonia. This work in progress, or whatever it is, has to do with getting back whatever it is that makes it possible to experience—well, pretty much anything, and to experience it not as a zombie, as someone soulless, “undead.” But rather someone with an imagination, say, and the ability to dream, even to have nightmares, God forbid! And the awareness that there’s something there there which, for a while, there wasn’t. I lived in a there-less place.
I’m told a Blog is a place where one can, among other things, organize one’s thoughts. And to do so in a sort of private-public place. I’m thinking aloud and there’s some pleasure in it. Ah, pleasure! It’s not all Anhedonia. It’s not all Annie Hall. At some level we all live in a state of grace. Even the undead. I’m thinking of hope.
“Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” Who said that? Jean Kerr.
Anyway, the underlying premise of this work, of this cure, is that we have an inner self [‘something’] and that that something can be fucking shattered by violence or violation of some kind, with the result that one can literally, fucking “lose one’s mind.”
Gone. And that, for me, is one definition of the term “undead.” I been there. I know the feeling. I once was lost, and now I’m found. And, with all due respect, I’m not thinking of Jesus. I’m not thinking of Christianity. Though, then again, why not? Well, for one thing, because I’m, what else? a Jew.
The working metaphor is soul retrieval, which medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo, describes in his book as involving a) locating what was lost, that is, the “pieces,” b) then recovering and returning those pieces, and… well, read on…
“What is it breaks when a man breaks down? What is it “goes to pieces”? What I’m hearing here, nut that I am, is my Jewish Russian-born small businessman Republican podiatrist father explaining… the son needs help. The father, dead since 1982, is here to help.
“The pieces. With a net I need to find you. First find. Inhale. Make clean. Then breathe back into you. You know what it is, a soul?
“All the pieces in one place.”
For more, see the Fall/Winter 2007 U.S.A. issue of Dr. Martin Bax’ English magazine, Ambit 190. Ambit editors include J.G. Ballard, Mike Foreman, Henry Graham, Geoff Nicholson, and, in issue 190, art work by Ralph Steadman.