Less a memoir and more a series of pretty, impressionistic word-pictures, strung together like Christmas cards: little sketches of a fussy, formal, efLess a memoir and more a series of pretty, impressionistic word-pictures, strung together like Christmas cards: little sketches of a fussy, formal, effete world, long gone.
'It is still the depth of night. The moon has clouded over, darkening the shadows under the trees. There come voices: 'Can we open the shutters?' 'But the servants will not be ready yet!' 'Attendant! Open up!' Then the bell for the dawn watch suddenly wakes everyone up and the Ritual of the Five Mystic Kings begins...'
'I was absent from the mansion the day the Governor of Harima gave a banquet as a forfeit for losing a game of go, and it was only later that...'
'Sometime after the twentieth of the eighth month, those nobles and senior courtiers whose presence was required at the mansion started to stay the night. They would take naps on the bridge and the veranda of the east wing, and play music in desultory fashion. The younger members, who were as yet unskilled in either koto or flute, held competitions to see who was the best at chanting sūtras and they practiced the latest songs together...'
'His Excellency carried the baby prince in his arms, preceded by Lady Koshōshō with the sword, and Miya no Naishi with the tiger's head.'
'On the last night of the year, the ceremony for casting out devils was over very early, so I was resting in my room, blackening my teeth and putting on a light powder, when...'
'On the ninth of the ninth month, Lady Hyōbu brought me floss-silk damp with chrysanthemum dew.
'"Here," she said, "Her Excellency sent this especially for you. She said you were to use it carefully to wipe old age away!"'
A shorter and much more straightforwardly emotional narrative than The Ugly One With The Jewels (why haven't I read The Nerve Bible yet?), as befitsA shorter and much more straightforwardly emotional narrative than The Ugly One With The Jewels (why haven't I read The Nerve Bible yet?), as befits its two chief themes: grief and memory.
Because Anderson put the majority of this together before her husband's death in 2013, the 'grief and memory' stories mostly cover her relationships with her difficult mother ('when I left for school, my mother wouldn't say goodbye; she'd yell, "win!"') and her endearing rat-terrier, Lolabelle (to whom she - of course - gave professional piano lessons from a dog trainer as a gift). She mines the latter loss for better material than I, a mere cat person, could've thought possible - most of it insightful, much of it sad, and some of it genuinely funny, like the brief piece that opens with a slightly puzzled Anderson narrating:
For two years after Lolabelle's death, I continued to get notifications from a Facebook account I didn't even know she had.
Or the story that has her note, casually, partway through:
She also made a Christmas record, which was pretty good.
Given some of the content here - e.g. 'A Story About a Story', which covers a period of Our Heroine's childhood I can only describe as 'Margaret Atwood grim' - the fact that Heart of a Dog is poignant without being crushingly depressing is a testament to both Anderson's light touch and to her lovely Buddhist-borrowing philosophy in general:
...What our meditation teacher keeps telling us. He says, 'you should try to learn how to feel sad, without being sad', which is actually really hard to do - to feel sad, without actually being sad.
The thing that's forbidden by the Tibetan Book of the Dead is crying. Crying is not allowed, because it's supposedly confusing to the dead. And you don't want to summon them back, because they actually can't come back. So, no crying.
When Lolabelle died, our teacher said 'every time you think of her, give something away or do something kind'. And I said, 'then I'd be giving things away non-stop.' And he said 'so?' And it took me so long to figure it out. Because death is so often about regrets, or guilt - 'why didn't I call her?' or 'why didn't I say that?'[,] it's more about you than the person who died. And finally I saw it: the connection between love and death; and that the purpose of death is the release of love.
The inclusion of some of Lolabelle's freeform piano compositions helps, too. Jazzy!...more
70 minutes' worth of very good reasons to not only love Laurie Anderson but, in fact, want to be her when One Grows Up. (So screw you, everyone in the70 minutes' worth of very good reasons to not only love Laurie Anderson but, in fact, want to be her when One Grows Up. (So screw you, everyone in the press calling her 'Lou Reed's wife' or 'Lou Reed's widow' as though that's all she is or has ever been.)
For instance, the story that opens:
The summer of 1974 was brutally hot in New York, and I kept thinking about how nice and icy it must be at the North Pole. And then I thought: 'Wait a second; why not go?' You know, like in cartoons - where they hang 'Going to the North Pole' on their door knobs, and they just take off.
So I spent a couple of weeks preparing for the trip - getting a hatchet, a huge backpack, maps, knives, sleeping bags, lures, and a three month supply of bannock: a versatile high-protein paste that can be made into flatbread, biscuits or cereal.
Now, I had decided to hitchhike; and one day I just walked out onto Houston Street, weighed down with seventy pounds of gear, and stuck out my thumb.
'Going North?' I asked the driver as I struggled into his station wagon.
It's a two-star effort, really. Despite his ghost stories being universally marketed - back in the day - as non-fiction, O'Donnell never really puts mIt's a two-star effort, really. Despite his ghost stories being universally marketed - back in the day - as non-fiction, O'Donnell never really puts much of an effort into making his tall tales believable. And the style... isn't exactly literary:
The Rev. Silas rose to go. 'Very well then!' he said, bowing stiffly, 'I could say more - but I won't! I am sorry I have said as much. Some sceptics are never convinced! Some sceptics do not wish to be convinced! Some sceptics may be convinced, but prefer to appear unconvinced!
'I am no metaphysician! I will not attempt to classify YOU. I will only say, "May you never be AFRAID."
'I trust Mrs. Hartley, at all events, is not a sceptic: I hope she is not a psychic! especially not a psychic in this house. I wish you good day!'
'He did not wish us good luck!' Mr. Hartley explained as the door banged. 'By Jove! I have no patience to listen to such stuff! Haunted, indeed!'
The extra star comes from the truly bizarre turns his stories (yarns? I think we can decently call them 'yarns') take:
• A grotesque creature with the body of a man and the face of a pig randomly jumps out at the author from a cemetery and chases him down the lane, and it's mentioned in passing.
• A pleasant country meadow is occupied by an invisible clammy presence that turns out to be - somehow - a supernatural cloud of infectious fungus, which tries to pour itself into the mouths of passersby and which actually succeeds in killing one of the luckless household dogs with an instantly lethal plague of malignant abscesses.
• A house is haunted by a longcase clock that stomps up the stairs at night on bare grey human feet (still ticking!) and bangs on all the doors. When, irritated by its behaviour, the owner turfs the thing out into the summerhouse in disgrace, it completes its narrative resemblance to a naughty labrador by being seen wandering the local back roads all night scaring the villagers. The punchline, such as it is, is that the clock has been - inexplicably - ornamented all along with the old grey bones of an ancient Irish bog body.
Lovecraft couldn't have done much weirder than some of this....more
Having grown up on a steady diet of Magical Native Americans and twee New Age cultural appropriation, and coming fresh from Ishi In Two Worlds' litanyHaving grown up on a steady diet of Magical Native Americans and twee New Age cultural appropriation, and coming fresh from Ishi In Two Worlds' litany of atrocities against native Americans by white landowners, this was...a bit of a nasty surprise.
I guess there never really are any Good Guys™....more
Venusian man allows the author to photograph him in silhouette against background of lighted spacecraft. Space people are reluctaWell, I'm convinced:
Venusian man allows the author to photograph him in silhouette against background of lighted spacecraft. Space people are reluctant to permit clear photographs of their features, because they might be recognised while mingling with Earth people. An aura or force field can be seen around spacecraft in original photograph, but much detail is lost in printing process.
This shot taken on the Moon shows spacecraft landing near dome-shaped building. The author was permitted to take only a few photographs during his visit to the Moon, and some of them have not yet been released for public showing.
Space woman walks toward the author. Just after she touched the shiny gadget on belt she disappeared. A space man standing near her said she had returned to the craft.
Worth reading - and re-reading - for Renee's chilling, carefully-drawn descriptions of her increasingly eerie inner world:
The recreation period at sch
Worth reading - and re-reading - for Renee's chilling, carefully-drawn descriptions of her increasingly eerie inner world:
The recreation period at school was often a source of the unreal feeling. I kept close to the fence as though I were indeed a prisoner and watched the other pupils shouting and running about in the school yard. They looked to me like ants under a bright light. The school building became immense, smooth, unreal, and an inexpressible anguish pressed in on me. I fancied that the people watching us from the street thought all of us prisoners just as I was a prisoner and wanted so much to escape. Sometimes I shook the grating as though there were no other way out, like a madman, I thought, who wanted to return to real life.
For the street seemed alive, gay and real, and the people moving there were living and real people, while all that was within the confines of the yard was limitless, unreal, mechanical and without meaning: it was the nightmare of the needle in the hay.
I caught myself in this state only in the yard, never in class. I suffered from it horribly, but I did not know how to get free. Play, conversation, reading - nothing seemed able to break the unreal circle that surrounded me.
These crises, far from abating, seemed rather to increase. One day, while I was in the principal's office, suddenly the room became enormous, illuminated by a dreadful electric light that cast false shadows. Everything was exact, smooth, artificial, extremely tense; the chairs and tables seemed models placed here and there. Pupils and teachers were puppets revolving without cause, without objective. I recognised nothing, nobody. It was as though reality, attenuated, had slipped away from all these things and these people. Profound dread overwhelmed me, and as though lost, I looked around desperately for help. I heard people talking but I did not grasp the meaning of the words. The voices were metallic, without warmth or colour. From time to time, a word detached itself from the rest. It repeated itself over and over in my head, absurd, as though cut off by a knife. And when one of my schoolmates came toward me, I saw her grow larger and larger, like the haystack [in Renee's nightmares].
During class, in the quiet of the work period, I heard the street noises - a trolley passing, people talking, a horse neighing, a horn sounding, each detached, immovable, separated from its source, without meaning. Around me, the other children, heads bent over their work, were robots or puppets, moved by an invisible mechanism. On the platform, the teacher, too, talking, gesticulating, rising to write on the blackboard, was a grotesque jack-in-the-box. And always this ghastly quiet, broken by outside sounds coming from far away, the implacable sun heating the room, the lifeless immobility. An awful terror bound me; I wanted to scream.
On the way to school in the morning at seven-thirty, sometimes the same thing happened. Suddenly the street became infinite, white under the brilliant sun; people ran about like ants on an ant-hill; automobiles circled in all directions aimlessly; in the distance a bell pealed. Then everything seemed to stop, to wait, to hold its breath, in a state of extreme tension, the tension of the needle in the haystack. Something seemed about to occur, some extraordinary catastrophe. An overpowering anxiety forced me to stop and wait. Then, without anything having actually changed, again realising the senseless activity of people and things, I went on my way to school.
If you value your own sanity, however, I advise you to skip Dr. Sechehaye's densely jargonistic appendices - which cost this thing a whole orange star....more
Unlike Jane, who didn't obtain command of the memories of Eve White and Eve Black until after their deaths, I was born with an immed
Unlike Jane, who didn't obtain command of the memories of Eve White and Eve Black until after their deaths, I was born with an immediate full command of all my predecessors' memories. All my recollections, however, fitted into the pattern common to multiple personality, just as Jane's did. When she discussed her newly inherited memories with Dr. Luther, after the disintegration of the two Eves, Jane said, 'I can remember everything, but I can't remember doing all those things. It's as though somebody else did them while I was watching. I remember them as things Eve White and Eve Black did. Not I.' And my memory of everything prior to the night before Thanksgiving, 1954, is the memory of things Eve White, Eve Black and Jane did. Not I.
When I 'woke up', however, I wasn't thinking of the past. I was much too concerned with the immediate present, in the shape of seventeen sleeping pills in my stomach. But first there was a perplexing moment or two when I didn't know who I was or where I was. I can remember my confusion as I tried to make out my surroundings, and my annoyance because I was blinded by the reading lamp Jane had used to floodlight the bed. I finally had to close my eyes to shut out the glare. And then a curious thing happened. My head was immediately filled with a vivid, detailed picture of Jane, funerally laid out on what she meant to be her death-bed. It was as if the reading lamp, like a magic lantern, was focusing the scene on my mind. And the moment I 'saw' Jane, I became oriented. I knew who I was; I knew who she was, and I knew what she had just done. Then I experienced my first emotion - fear. It was a sickening paroxysm of fear such as I never want to know again, but it served its purpose. It stirred me into action.
It sent me running pell-mell into the living-room, shouting 'She's trying to kill me! She's trying to kill me!'
- Strangers In My Body: The Final Face of Eve by Evelyn Lancaster and James Poling (1958)
Conceived as MPD's first 'memoir of madness' and ghostwritten in a rush to capitalise on the success of 1957's 'The Three Faces of Eve', Strangers In My Body: The Final Face of Eve (just The Final Face of Eve in its home United States) represents Chris Costner Sizemore's first - by her own later account, largely thwarted - attempt to tell her own life story. The account covers, to varying degrees of detail and accuracy, the years from Chris's birth in 1927 to the birth of the 'Evelyn Lancaster' personality in 1954, and is probably (the introduction seems to think 'certainly') the first full-length personal account of multiple personality on record.
Evelyn's 'story of "the grand psychoneurosis"' also has the curious distinction of being, as far as I'm aware, the first full-length autobiography ever to be penned and published by a dissociative 'alter ego'. According to all her later accounts, the Chris Sizemore who wrote as Evelyn Lancaster (pseudonym courtesy of Dr. Thigpen) wasn't the Final Face of Eve - or even, as 'Life' magazine once called her, the Fourth Face of Eve. The Evelyn Lancaster personality was apparently the thirteenth or so in a long and bewildering series of alternating 'faces', sticking around less than five years before going the way of all her predecessors and disappearing forever. She never spent more than a few weeks truly alone in her own body.
Evelyn wasn't even the only Chris active at the time of writing: the 'Jane' personality, increasingly absent in the years after her suicide attempt, returned with a sullen vengeance early in 1957 and only finally disappeared for good in the January of the following year, a story 'Life' eagerly published when advertising the book proper:
For two years, as the Lancasters moved from place to place in their trailer, Evelyn seemed completely well. She made friends with her neighbours and took an interest in community life. She visited Dr. Thigpen, though she neglected to report the incident with the sleeping pills. She told him her [previous three alters'] frigidity was gone. She was still jealous, though, she said laughing, but she was now jealous of Jane who, after all, had been married to Earl first. The change was apparent to the doctors.
Evelyn's own appraisal of the switch from Jane is interesting. She believes that Jane gave the impression of growing maturity and soundness during early therapy only because she was created to act as a buffer between Eve White and Eve Black. When they were gone, the specific need for Jane was gone, too, and Jane was not strong enough to stand alone. When Jane failed, Evelyn came into being. She said last month: 'I've been very hard on Jane. But she had a great advantage. In the beginning everyone was on her side and wanted her to succeed. Fortunately for me, she goofed.'
But the appearance of the fourth face was not the final solution. Trouble for Evelyn Lancaster began early last year. She and Earl were living at the time in a trailer camp not far from Washington D.C. Shopping in a women's clothing store one day, she was suddenly overcome by a compulsion to steal a sweater from the pile on the counter. When the salesgirl's back was turned, she simply took the sweater and walked away. Out in the street, Evelyn changed - perhaps got control of - her mind. She wheeled around, returned to the store and handed the sweater back to the manager with the explanation that she had wanted to steal it.
Evelyn told no one about the incident in the store but her two-year peace was ended. She started having headaches again. A voice tormented her and new blackouts began.
After one such period Evelyn found a note in the pocket of Earl's jacket, a note that Earl said later he had not seen, a note that terrified her. It read: 'If your wife doesn't let me out more often, I'll kill her. Warn her not to fight me.' The signature was 'Jane.' The third face had returned.
- 'Fourth Face of Eve' by Loudon S. Wainwright; 'Life' Magazine, 19th May 1958
Chris, of course, had infamously signed the rights to her life story away forever to Drs. Thigpen and Cleckley some time during her therapy in 1956. None of this - Jane's 'survival'; Chris's continued illness; anything that might make them look bad - could possibly make its way into The Three Faces of Eve's authorised sequel. Chris gives her own account of the tortuous saga of The Final Face's writing and publication 19 years later, when finally given back her own narrative agency:
Little did Chris realise the odds she was up against when she confidently set about to take charge of her great adventure. From the outset, she declared that she was now going to reveal her identity and to tell the events of her life, including her continued illness, exactly the way it occurred. [Co-writer] James Poling went to Augusta to visit the doctors and innocently revealed these facts to them. The reaction was as instantaneous as it was violent: it was not to be done. The exposing of her identity would subject not only her, but her husband and family as well, to unpleasant personal publicity and annoyance and would result in the definite danger of the knowledge of her old illness, which was now behind her, becoming a source of complexity and worry to [Chris's daughter] Taffy. Dr. Thigpen clearly stated these instructions to the writer and also delineated them in a letter to Chris, suggesting that if anyone attempted to identify her, she should warn him that he was laying himself open to slander. [...] Dr. Thigpen also vetoed any mention being made of her continuing illness, referring to it as merely a 'small rebellion' that could be easily resolved.
[...] This resulted in an enormous conflict within her: as [Evelyn Lancaster], she wanted to go, to tell of her present troubles, to get blessed help; as Jane, the betrayed Jane, she refused to go, feeling that the revelation of another personality would cause the doctor to bring about her demise, as had her own revelation brought about the demise of the two Chrises before her. Jane, being the weaker, lost the battle in spite of both her pleading and her vicious threats, and Chris made her pilgrimage to Augusta. And so she lost Round 2: she could not reveal her continued illness, only that a fourth and final personality had evolved and that Jane was now gone, dead. The story was to be told as if Jane had actually died on that night when she took the overdose of pills and laid herself out for death. Chris had to return to her task of telling her 'true' story, while bearing on the ever-present tormenting proof of its falseness. Jim Poling agreed to this little deceit because he felt that it was best for Chris and because he believed the doctor's prognosis that it would not be too complicated to resolve the present trouble if no fuss were made of it. So much for Round 2. [...] Chris accepted all this, but the joy had gone out of her task. Not only would her story be an 'also-ran', but she would again get no recognition for it, and the very man whose story she was attempting to correct would edit her material. [...] When [she] realised how her plans had been thwarted and curtailed, she fought back in the only way that seemed to be left open to her: she withheld her additional information. If she could not tell the world, she was not going to tell anyone. She did not give Mr. Poling all the letters she had accumulated, and she told him that she was unable to obtain any family pictures; she gave him, in fact, very little that was not in the doctors' book.
[...] Another point of lengthy contention arose over Chris's declaration that there had been other personalities before Chris Costner and Chris White and that they were separate and apart, distinct from those with whom the doctors had worked. The doctors' theory, as so stated in their book, was that those personalities were simply earlier versions of Chris Costner and Chris White, citing as proof that the two Chrises had memories of those earlier examples. A concrete example was Chris Costner's admitting to Dr. Thigpen that she was the one who married Al Thorne [in 1944], leaving Chris White to take all the punishment. Chris refuted this argument, saying that the ensuing personalities always had some knowledge of experiences preceding their birth and that even the doctor acknowledged a suspicion that Chris Costner had been lying about that episode. And how to explain this fourth personality: [Evelyn Lancaster]? The doctors valiantly attempted to do just this in a final section ending Chris and Jim's book; but even so, it was a ghost that refused to be laid, and Dr. Thigpen, when asked about it over the years, began to declare that he had been misunderstood about the resolution of the illness and that no amount of explaining seemed to clarify the issue. As it happened, however, he won the round, and Jim wrote the story as if the [nine!] early personalities were merely juvenile Chris Whites and Chris Costners instead of different beings in their own right.
[...] In November , [Chris] received the title that McGraw-Hill had chosen for her book: The Final Face of Eve. Again her disappointment was acute; she had carefully selected the title Strangers In My Body, and that was the one written on the publisher's contract; but now it had been changed. And the new title was just as wrong as was the ending of the book. [...] This news followed on the heels of her receipt of the final part of the story, written to show that Jane died that November night three years ago when she took the overdose of pills and laid herself out to await death. And it was not true, they all knew it was a lie; Jim knew, Dr. Thigpen knew, she knew, and above all, Jane knew that Jane still lived and fought desperately to continue living. The harder they tried to eradicate her through ignoring her, writing of her death, even pretending that she was only a minor disturbance, the harder she struggled for life. The horror becomes inconcievable when viewed from Jane's awareness: there was a conspiracy, of which she was fully cognizant, to kill her, and though she pled with everyone, even her 'former' husband, for help, they all turned deaf ears to her. The doctor who, she felt, once helped to create her, who nurtured her, who aided her in the elimination of her own competitors, now ignored her, described her merely as a 'poisonous apple that the stomach is attempting to disgorge'. And her body, the one she had fought for and had rightful claim to, had been usurped by another who was stronger and more possessive about inhabiting it. And the man who married her and vowed to love and protect her for better or worse had now turned his back on her and refused even to hear her plea for life. Finally, they were going to announce to the world in The Final Face of Eve that she was dead! There was no help in all of this world for her. The suffocating nothingness of oblivion began to stifle her.
- I'm Eve by Chris Costner Sizemore and Elen Sain Pitillo (1977)
Ultimately, what we're left with is a sort of second-generation photocopy of The Three Faces of Eve - or, perhaps worse, an appendix. There are some charming uncollected anecdotes from the era (Eve Black's idea of a romantic meal, for instance, proves to be an endless series of banana splits and Manhattan cocktails), and a handful of unreleased excerpts from the girls' diaries and correspondence that convey as much about the girls' personalities as any of their therapeutic transcripts (poor doomed Eve White's saccharine poems about her daughter are, in context, absolutely heartbreaking); the few brief moments in which Evelyn dryly conveys how it feels to be her own usurper are wonderfully quotable:
When the case was first made public at an annual American Psychiatric Association meeting, the Press had a great deal to say about how extremely different the three personalities dwelling in the one body were, both on the surface and under psychological testing. Their IQ scores, for example, had a six-point variation, each one reacted differently to the Rorschach test, their Wechsler Memory Scale ratings varied, their Electroencephalograms had individual characteristics, and a Semantic Differential test showed that each girl had her own individual neurotic problems to cope with.
I know, however, of a less scientific gauge which, to me, says more about how truly opposite their natures were than any laboratory yardstick. I'm referring to their respective attitudes toward their lingerie. Eve White, always conventional, never gave the matter a thought. She just took it for granted that one always wore panties, a bra, a slip. Jane, although she had no need of one, always squirmed her way into a girdle as a gesture to propriety, which she worshipped. A lady, she felt, should wear one. Eve Black, on the other hand, never wore anything but panties under her skimpy dresses. 'To hell with lastex,' she once said, 'Men like you to jiggle - so I jiggle.' And I suppose the fact that I wear whatever the occasion or the weather seems to call for is as good an indication as any that I'm an amalgam of all three girls.
- Strangers In My Body: The Final Face of Eve by Evelyn Lancaster and James Poling (1958)
But there are also so many lies and half-truths that it's hard, even having read all the available accounts, to tell which parts represent Chris Sizemore's genuine experience and which were doctored - no pun intended - by Thigpen and Cleckley prior to publication. And, knowing that the Jane personality was alive and well during round after round of Evelyn's unflattering reminisces makes the whole experience seem not only terribly sad but also terribly mean-spirited: the Jane she characterises here would be humiliated to be described in such detail. It makes for an uneasy and often frustrating read.
Luckily for all of us - and especially, I should think, for Chris Costner Sizemore - Strangers In My Body wouldn't, ultimately, be All She Wrote....more