I love Jung. I love him so much I bought the t-shirt. Seriously, for my birthday I got a t-shirt with Jung's big white face on it, and I wear it all t...moreI love Jung. I love him so much I bought the t-shirt. Seriously, for my birthday I got a t-shirt with Jung's big white face on it, and I wear it all the time. He looks pretty serious. I want people to know that Jung is watching them, so behave.
Sometimes I wonder, Am I a Jungian? Not really. But I could be. Everytime I read Jung I feel a greater part of myself converted. I do have a compulsive interest in dreams. Murakami's short stories do strike a chord with me. As skeptical as I am about everything I have to admit that in my heart I'm monk who yearns for a religion.
I love Jung because:
His psycho-gospel is a path of intense personal spirituality. It's an attitude of searching for and claiming a truth peculiar to oneself. It's a cry against the materialism of super-rational modernism. Meaninglessness, he says, is a mental illness. The alternative is a milieu of your own images and symbols and intuitive experiences, that while deeply subjective, serves to make the world a bigger place. Now how could an aspiring writer like me not sign up for that? The individuation process is basically what a novel does.
The seriousness of his play. When Jung got stuck he drew mandalas and built sandcastles. He approached these playful activities with all seriousness of thought. I admire anyone who "works out his own salvation with fear and trembling" by playing games, by trying on costumes, by making up stories.
He considered himself a man of science. I have to laugh at that sometimes. Like when he says things such as, "Astrology is in the process of becoming a science," I have to wonder how scientific his science is. And yet he did shed his dogmas and he did seek to observe the psyche with all objectivity. His psycho-gospel was born from those conclusions. And he was most certainly willing to sacrifice to the gods he discovered behind the curtain. When I think of that, all the rigor he applied the texts of dreams and fairy tales and alchemy and gnosticism and crazy-talk, it occurs to me that he may very well have dedicated his entire life to nonsense; and yet something inside me, rather than being turned off by that, says RIGHT ON!
This is a great book. He loses me at times — he always does — but even when I don't find his conclusions compelling, he, as a character, always compels me. I loved learning that he was a creepy child. I loved the first-hand account of his falling out with Freud. The prologue exudes a wisdom that I can't put a finger on and might function better as an epilogue. It presents, I think, a man reposed in a world of his own making. His world is huge and so he's free to move around it as he pleases. It's well lit too, so he's warm and sure footed and is able to see far ahead.
How could I not like this? Kafka check. Beckett check. Burroughs check. And that easy going Japanese narrator later associated with Murakami... check....moreHow could I not like this? Kafka check. Beckett check. Burroughs check. And that easy going Japanese narrator later associated with Murakami... check. Oh, and of course being himself check too.
I generally don't love books with huge libidos. All the masturbating and measuring of penises might've turned me off in another book. What can I say? I'm modest, maybe repressed, who knows? But this book seemed not to be so much about sex as the defamiliarization of sex in a modern bureaucratized, science-obsessed world. There are lots of hidden microphones, and polygraph machines, and squawking loud speakers: too many for sex to be enjoyable that's for sure. At one point the narrator goes running down the hall because he hears his young female charge (who has a bone gelatinizing disease) moaning in agony... but when he arrives of course it's not agony, it's... the other thing. He looks away. And I think: how strange our itches are. Why are agony and pleasure at their most extreme so close to the same thing? So many paradoxes. In this book about a hospital that is endless, everybody is a doctor, everybody is a patient. We're all a little bit messed up.
Yes there is a certain dissatisfaction that comes from being given everything you want in a novel (paradox). I should've read this about five years ago, back when I discovered The Kangaroo Notebook. Oh well that's not Abe's fault, but mine. Stars, stars, everybody gets as many stars as they want today.(less)
One of the most purely entertaining books I've ever read. Honestly, when I finished, I held it to my chest with a purr.
I was a bit nervous at the star...moreOne of the most purely entertaining books I've ever read. Honestly, when I finished, I held it to my chest with a purr.
I was a bit nervous at the start. I mean, was this just going to be some guy capitalizing on the fact that Borges never wrote a novel? Saying to all the Borgesians who are a bit glum over the fact: "Hey everybody over here! I got your Borges novel! Your Borges stamped key chains! Borges coffee cozies! Going fast!"
Well the book was an homage, definitely, almost a piece of fan fiction, but an extremely respectful and astute one. The guy obviously knows Borges down to his fluids and neurons. At the end he crafts this letter written from Borges to the narrator, and the rhythms and diction are so spot on I had to go look at the publishing date to make SURE Borges hadn't participated somehow. No, he was dead by the time this book was written, and admits as much in the letter. The book was full of little touches and nods like that. This book distills and collects so much of what I love about Borges.
Okay, how's this for super clever? Borges stars as the sleuth in a very Borgesian detective story (it relies heavily on a mirror), set appropriately enough in Buenos Aires at a literary conference on Edgar Allan Poe, who a) invented the detective story and b) was a primary if not THE primary influence on Borges and c) was also the primary influence of H.P. Lovecraft, another Borges favorite. The puzzles in this book quickly move from forensics to philology, as you'd expect.
While Poe and Lovecraft definitely have their qualities, I'll admit they can be a little too pulpy for me. I think I like them best as busts in the library of Jorge Luis Borges. Herein lies one of the main pleasures of this book for me: examining those two writers through Borgesian eyes (excuse the irony there), through his love of semiotics, of misdirection, and of obscure and fantastic scholarship. The letter, mentioned above, was only one of the many ways that Verissimo exploited the meta-fictional "Is this this real or not?" possibilities of the story. The last word of the book is "verisimilitude" a word which I think, in its connotations toward both truth and the simulation of truth, captures the spirit of this book; and it makes me wonder if the universe is really so kind to have honestly named this author Verissimo.