Looking for a sustained rant of 130ish pages? This may be your book. Wilhelm Reich was a noted psychoanalyst and Austrian MD, lauded in Sigmund Freud'...moreLooking for a sustained rant of 130ish pages? This may be your book. Wilhelm Reich was a noted psychoanalyst and Austrian MD, lauded in Sigmund Freud's inner circle for the concept of character armour, i.e. people closing up and dealing with only a slice of the incoming sense data about the world in order to protect themselves, becoming an expert in that slice, and sniping from within the protection of that narrow fetishization of the world.
Later on, he fell out of favour with Freud when he began experimenting with what he called "orgone," or human life force, which could be ascertained like an aura under certain scientifical conditions in the dark. According to Reich, orgone is increased by doing what you love, meditating, encouraging others to be their best selves, and having copious amounts of sex.
During and after WII, he was refused medical licences throughout Europe and the US, as he emigrated westward, because of his zany view that people should be getting off lots and not shy talking about it. Personally, Reich had lots of sex with many ladies he worked with in hospitals, labs, or clinics, whether staff or patients, which was found to be both ethically troubling and scintillating.
He built orgone accumulators, which are essentially upright wooden boxes with a door and a bench inside, where a person sits, meditating on his or her life force and thereby accumulating more of it. The Beat poets, Sean Connery, J.D. Salinger, and Robert Anton Wilson had orgone accumulators. Some of these men probably sat inside them hoping to lay as much pipe as Reich. I find this rather funny, a psychoanalyst getting 1950s type-men to calmly meditate and self-reflect through the promise of more sex.
Reich was as unashamed as a clinician talking about sex. In the 1940s and 50s. In America. This did not go well.
Reich was probably gently mad in his old age. He milled around his Maine estate, building and selling orgone accumulators, working away on his cure for cancer that yielded results that only he could see, much like orgone, and building cloudbusters, i.e. gun-shaped turret-shells he claimed dissipated clouds. At one point, Albert Einstein experimented with both the accumulators and Reich's cancer cure and diplomatically stopped speaking with Reich, who either wanted confirmation or to argue someone into yielding confirmation.
Eventually, someone found him weird enough to poke at, question his views enough to fuck up his batty retirement, and object to him looking at a microscope in his basement while making unsubstantiated claims about cancer. He was investigated. A court ordered that he burn his books and chop up his remaining accumulators. He did.
This book is his angry, sustained rant at the critiques and encroachments on his kooky world view. It is rancorous and sad. The book is long howl of a man who has been harmed but still wants to carry on, despite his general misanthropy brought on by being fucked with because he was a strange, alienated loner. It's also kooky much like Reich himself.
I am glad to have finally read one of his books. I have been fascinated by Reich since I learned about him from my favourite Kate Bush song, Cloudbusting.
Listen, Little Man! is a later, angry book. Reich seems to want to impart something, but mostly rants that readers are too stupid and narrow minded to listen. His critiques are random, sometimes scoring points. Generally, there is not much beyond Reich sounding aggrieved for not being left alone and for not being recognized as a genius (These were not mutually exclusive in his mind, both based on a cancer cure and a life force that only he could see). At some point, I will read another of his books, probably Character Analysis, an earlier book from when he was a Freudian darling. This one was decent, but only read it if you are looking for a scattershot memo on why people generally suck in large groups.(less)
Jünger explores how crime must be contained in order for society to function. This meditation on scandal is placed within the framework of a detective...moreJünger explores how crime must be contained in order for society to function. This meditation on scandal is placed within the framework of a detective novel. If this were simply a detective novel, it would fail. The form is more of a jumping off point for Jünger to ruminate about lies society uses as currency. the importance and danger of idealistic youth, and the role of police as shrewd fact collectors.
If you are already a fan of this brutal, darkly funny guy, this novel will provide more of the same. A Dangerous Encounter is too precious as meta-fiction to stand on its own. Better introductions to Jünger are The Glass Bees or Storm of Steel. (less)
Jakob von Gunten is a neurotic ode to modesty and minimalism. I loved the book as much as I frustrated with it.
The titular character is a runaway blue...moreJakob von Gunten is a neurotic ode to modesty and minimalism. I loved the book as much as I frustrated with it.
The titular character is a runaway blue-blood, who being the mischievous contrarian he ceaselessly claims that he is, enrolls himself in a sketchy school for servants.
The novels is structured as Jakob's first-person diary filled with vignettes and impressions. About half of the book is concerned with Jakob's admiration for a stern, obedient classmate named Kraus. The other half focuses on conversations with school staff, and Jakob's maturation as a pupil.
Not much happens. Jakob isn't half the shit he thinks he is. There are plenty of brilliant humane observations amid the neuroses.
The book reminded me of Hotel Chevalier (2007) by Wes Anderson. Short, strange, full of fascinating objects, and yet frustratingly empty when seen on its own. Empty cleverness playing with itself, and yet very beautiful. The works are precious in both senses: gorgeous and fey.
I have yet to see the film version, "Institute Bejamenta," by the Brothers Quay. I need to let the book fade from my memory a bit before diving back into something that promises more neurotic tableaux.(less)