I deplored how sticky my mind feels as I read, like it's dragging through treacle, and remembered what my psychiatrist friend had asked me the weekend before. After talking about the Topamax, he'd said, "And do you feel that your thinking is..." "Stupid?" I blurted, finishing his sentence for him. "Slow was what I was thinking," he replied with a smile. Argh. I hate this drug, but I promised I would stick with it a little longer. I feel that I lose some of my mental acuity on it, but on the other hand, it dulls my anger and sadness and I haven't felt half as annoyed about half the
So I wandered happily through reviews of exhibitions the Royal Academy and other venues in London and thought about documentary photography for the first time in years; decided that my new television obsession will have to be "The Hour" on BBC America, which apparently gives "Mad Men" a true run for its money; and delighted in Toni Bentley's delicious description of Violet Trefusis' mental state, imagined by today's standards, but wait for the punchline: "Today Violet would be on a Lexapro cocktail with an Abilify chaser, Ritalin with some Ativan on the side for particularly fiery outbursts, while attending daily meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous after a few weeks of inpatient therapy with Dr. Drew at Almost-a-Celebrity Rehab. But instead of all this to rein in her emotional anarchy, she had the old-fashioned cure, a formidable mother." I was excited to see Sir Michael Holroyd's new biography of Vita Sackville-West and Violet Keppel, A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers, on several counts; Holroyd is a brilliant writer and biographer; his research is encyclopedic. His wit and compassion for his subjects, combined with the thorny issue of illegitimate daughters, only adds to his allure. Although Bloomsbury is well trammeled territory, I am confident in the hands of Sir Michael, and from the new point of view of the paternity and illegitimacy, there might be new things to learn. Curious.
From Bloomsbury to Bosch. I read a rich essay by Terry Castle on Outsider Art in The London Review of Books. In one segment, she wrote about her childhood fascination with Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights: "The weird punishments visited on the sinners in Hell were riveting enough, but even freakier, possibly, were the pleasures to be found in Bosch's world--the surreal salamander bliss depicted in the eponymous Garden and beyond. Strangest of all: the fact that outlandish things were happening--all over the painting--but that nobody, even in hell, looked to be particularly tormented. Indeed, some of the little naked human figures seemed to display a near comical sangfroid, even as they were pecked by giant birds, hatched out of egg, had huge flowers inserted in their bottoms, or, in the case of one of my favourites, sported a monstrous blueberry instead of a head. What sort of person could have dreamed this up?"
My answer? Tongue in cheek, of course, but the same kind of person who insists that adoptees aren't allowed to define their own narratives. They paste smiles on our faces because that's the way they want to see us. If we say we feel otherwise, well, there's no "science" to prove that we can feel that way. Aren't there lots of happy adoptees who have blueberries for heads? And why do these experts/concerned individuals/Bigfoot hunters/alien debunkers feel free to tell us this is normal? Because, once again, they feel we aren't quite human. Mockery is such fun sport.
And yet we are human. We are individuals, each with our own stories, our own paths and journeys, we were all separated from our mothers. That is our truth. We aren't imaginary creatures, figments of an artist's wonderful, crazy thoughts, or members of a cult. We have lived what we lived, and we remember it. It's in our minds and bodies.
It had never occurred to me before, but Bosch's painting, with all of its serene smiling in the face of suffering, really is like one big adoptee nightmare. Well done, Bosch. Dogma is dogma is dogma.