Anyone who knows me knows that I like my mental health memoirs - the old pre-Sybil cases of multiple personality especially. And it's certainly no secAnyone who knows me knows that I like my mental health memoirs - the old pre-Sybil cases of multiple personality especially. And it's certainly no secret that Chris Costner Sizemore's case is one of my all-time favourite case histories (twenty-eight status updates for I'm Eve? srsly?).
But the major problem with Chris Costner Sizemore - and it has, to my profound irritation, never been more obvious - is that she's a revisionist. Each of the six (!) substantial accounts of her life and illness represents - to one degree or another - a retroactive rewrite of the ones before it:
1. 1957's The Three Faces of Eve reads like a fairly typical case of multiple personality from 'the golden age of the unconscious' in the late 19th Century. The nervous, religious and dutiful 'Eve White', trapped in an awful marriage, finds herself abruptly turning into the confident, amoral and charming 'Eve Black' - something that, it turns out, has been happening all her life. In the course of a hypnosis-heavy psychiatric treatment, a 'doctor's pet' third personality - 'Jane', later Jane Lancaster - emerges: a charming intellectual that appears to combine the best traits of her two 'sisters' but has none of their memories. After a therapeutic 'Eureka!' moment in which Jane abruptly remembers a traumatic incident from her girlhood, Eve White and Eve Black disappear, bequeathing Jane their memories. Jane, her young daughter and her new husband go off into the sunset together. There is a lucrative film starring Joanne Woodward.
2. 1958's The Final Face of Eve undercuts this happy ending at once with the revelation that Jane's brief career as a single personality is such a disaster that she attempts suicide - and, apparently, succeeds. A final 'fourth face' - the 'Evelyn Lancaster' who writes the memoir - emerges to save the body and take over. Evelyn is apparently fine now: 'cured' for real - though an afterword by Thigpen and Cleckley fails to account for the unexpected personality reshuffle that happened in their absence.
3. A lengthy magazine article published by 'Life' in 1958 to promote Evelyn's new book offers a substantially different account even to this: after two years of silence from Jane, in which everyone assumes she is 'dead', she suddenly reemerges as a spiteful persecutor of Evelyn - who finds herself shoplifting in fugues, and writing herself and her husband nasty notes. A final therapy session with her old doctors - apparently on the subject of her mysterious first marriage - removes Jane for good.
4. 1977's I'm Eve - written under Sizemore's real name - reframes the whole previous canon in the context of an ongoing disorder. After three gruesome (non-sexual) traumas at age 2, Chris begins to dissociate into different personalities. For a little while, she is still herself - as evidenced by multiple textual notes in her 'present-day' voice, in which she describes her baffled young self as 'I', not 'her' or 'she' - alternating with a wicked disobedient personality and a calm indifferent personality. Somewhere between the ages of six and ten - the memoir strongly implies the latter - her original self disappears, and Chris begins living her life in multiples of three alter egos at a time - good, bad and apathetic - with a gradual turnover as they 'die' and are replaced. Eve White, Eve Black and Jane Lancaster are the latest in a long line that continues long after Chris's therapy and well into the 1970s. All of them have some knowledge of Chris's life before their appearance except Jane (who never had the lifetime's worth of memories the previous accounts assert, and who was only absent a few weeks after her suicide attempt), and most of their arrivals and departures as characters are linked with deaths elsewhere in the family. The 'real' Chris Costner Sizemore finally emerges in therapy after the last of her final trio of alters disappears, having spent 'forty years in fantasy'. Sizemore claims that a lot of incidents in the previous accounts of her life are sheer fabrication on the part of her controlling doctors - to whom she signed over the rights to her own life story during therapy, very much to her own financial detriment. Thigpen, particularly, comes across as a Nasty Piece of Work.
5. 1989's A Mind of My Own corresponds broadly to the new narrative, but, alas, adds some subtle retcons to the story too. The roster of alter personalities changes inexplicably. The disturbing abreactions that in her previous memoir are described as happening shortly before her recovery - to a different personality, in other words - are moved to shortly afterward, and the series of flashbacks described as a 'week of hell' in I'm Eve is now expanded to six weeks. Sizemore now traces the submergence of her original personality to the age of two, not ten. She describes a day or two spent lurking in the back of the mind of her last alter 'the Retrace Lady', shortly before her reawakening - something she entirely fails to mention in I'm Eve and which is contradicted by a tantalising note elsewhere in the text that states that, for a brief while during her recovery, Sizemore actually believed that she was still 'the Retrace Lady'.
6. And now we have 2014's The Rape of Eve. Co-written with the loathsome Colin Ross - who makes Thigpen and Cleckley look like positive saints, and who is never ever getting any of my money if I can possibly help it - this final account features, among other things, Sizemore's assertions that Dr. Thigpen regularly sexually assaulted her during their sessions together. Google Books offers me this charming little snippet:
The shock of the news has made me sad. I am sad at the mention of his death. He was so much a part of my life for the past forty-eight years. Somehow, I don't know what I will do without him being there. He was always there, always in my head, and just a telephone call away. Am I relieved, or am I frightened? The emotions tumble through my mind.
Suddenly, I begin to shake and my heart races. I hear his voice - that very familiar voice. 'Sugar pie, if I should die before you, you must not tell anyone about our secrets. You must not write about them or tell anyone. You will cause hurt to my family, and to yours if you do! And, you know you don't want to hurt anyone. Remember, you must never tell anyone about our secrets!'
His voice is so clear. I look around to see where the voice is coming from.
Beads of sweat cover my forehead, my hands are damp, and my breath is short. Is Thigpen controlling me from the grave? I have been worried what additional triggers he may have planted within my subconscious. I have constantly asked my associates if this is possible - now it seems to be here.
Why is he calling out to me now? In my conscious mind I know he is dead. He can no longer hurt me. He can no longer control me. He can no longer do... No, I promised I won't tell anyone about that. I can't talk about all of those times. He made me promise. He said I would cause hurt to his family if I told. He said I would hurt my family too.
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 callin70 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 calling her 'Lou Reed's widow' in the papers 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 Banic [sp?] - 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.
Takes a couple of turns for the ludicrous in the final act, and the portrayal of women I'm not even going to think about because this is my mother's bTakes a couple of turns for the ludicrous in the final act, and the portrayal of women I'm not even going to think about because this is my mother's book and I'd just have to buy her another copy if this one ends up in the bin or in the litterbox or hanging from a tree.