Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Paranoia in literature and life

I just had a nasty dose of paranoia which thankfully was mild and short-lived. But it drew me inexorably to a topic which might otherwise have passed me by. So it goes.

My last post 's links seemed to be re-directing to a Microsoft help page, rather than to a selection of my recent reading. After a cry of help to other Blogger.com users, there was a measured and helpful reply from a fellow blitteur, no name no pack drill, which put all to rights with the deletion of an extra http:// or two and the addition of a few missing colons.

Paranoia successfully epochéd what suddenly came to mind was the theme of paranoia in literature (and of course life). The only book I can distinctly remember the details of the main character's paranoia was Pinfold's in Waugh's The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, which my parents had on their bookshelves in Libya when I was teenager - together with Amis's Lucky Jim - both of which I read later in my early twenties Waugh et al phase.

Pinfold, of course, goes crazy on a mixture of drink and drugs (if my memory serves, the latter supplied in copious quantity and variety by the ships doctor), as had happened to Waugh himself on a similar cruise which had been designed to help him recover from some mental problem or other.

These two novels involve drinking to oblivion and a third, which also now comes to mind, is Willy Russell's Educating Rita, where (in the film remember), lecturer Michael Cane's drinking is connected in part with his despair at the idea of teaching the literary canon to a working class girl with no previous education.

This looks as if it might be an opportunity for a collaborative effort, so I would ask any readers to come up with novels and ideas (not necessarily novel) to develop this theme. We could deal with Dostoevsky's drinking (and his epilepsy). Was it brought on by heavy drinking? If he hadn't drunk so much he might not have had the religious themes he put into so many of his novels. { N.B. epileptics are often or become obsessed with religion in some way or another, suggested to be through stimulation of the God Spot in the temporal lobe.}

It looks like I have got stuck on drinking and paranoia....however, this is a rich seam.


At Thursday, July 21, 2005, Blogger Stefanie said...

Raskolnikov (don't know if I spelled it right) becomes quite paranoid in Crime and Punishment as does the narrator of Poe's story The Telltale Heart. Of course both of them have plenty to be paranoid about :)

At Friday, July 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Dosty. came to mind after Waugh. There is his epilepsy and how it effected his writing which the 'Dostoevesky and psychology' link tackles, but the Freud stuff is obviously wrong-headed, 'cos he really was an epilpetic and it had a great effect on his writing, as is mentioned re. Brothers Kamarazov: a motivation to re-read bits apart from the Grand Inquisitor chapter, which is always fascinating to me.

If it was epilepsy and fiction it might be easier..epilepsy and religious mania (which I have read a lot about from science perspective) is worth exploring in literature.

Just looking up stuff right now...
I am clarifying this and possibly restricting it to (a) authors who put their mental illness into their fiction and paranoia as a mental illness depicted in fiction, rather than the looser use of the term. Lot to learn on exactly what we can call paranoia.

Quite a few mentions of conspiracy theory theories & paranoia [ref.
Paradigms of paranoia : the culture of conspiracy in contemporary American fiction by Samuel Coales ], creative paranoia (quoi ?) and cultural paranoia, even a course "Paranoia in literature and film".

Don't want to get to science fiction genre because inevitaby this leads to UFOs and Area 43 {U.S. facility where little green men are said to be kept with their spaceship, etc}, or whatever it is called, at all, at all. That does not appeal one bit, :).

I might up with sensitive guys (authors or characters) in literature instead!

Seriously, it is the disjunct which fascinates me: crazy people and not crazy people mixing in fiction and how the author deals with them. This includes temporary paranoia as exemplified by Pinfold: good because the writer can describe both sides of the coin. Pinfold (I have been reading) is a novelist, so Waugh uses that too.

Cultural paranoia in the sense of characters becoming or being made paranoid, in a strictly medical sense, would probably lead to a lot of political (e.g. Soviet or based) novels.

There is also the area of thinking your paranoid when you're not. This is all good high school thinking... and is showing up the paucity of my knowledge of the canon.


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