Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thanatos Syndrome: book of the month

Christina's World
«All at once she became afraid. She was afraid of people, places, things, dogs, the car; afraid to go out of her house, afraid of nothing at all. There are names for her disorder, of course — agoraphobia, free-floating anxiety — but they don't help much. What to do with herself? She did some painting, not very good, of swamps, cypresses, bayous, Spanish moss, egrets, and such. I thought of her as a homebound Emily Dickinson, but when I saw her on the couch in my office — she had made the supreme effort, gotten in her car, and driven to town — she looked more like Christina in Wyeth's painting, facing the window, back turned to me, hip making an angle, thin arm raised in a gesture of longing, a yearning toward — toward what?

In her case, the yearning was simple, deceptively simple. If only she could be back at her grandmother's farm in Vermont, where as a young girl she had been happy.

She had a recurring dream. Hardly a session went by without her mentioning it. It was worth working on. She was in the cellar of her grandmother's farmhouse, where there was a certain smell which she associated with the "winter apples" stored down there and a view through the high dusty windows of the green hills. Though she was always alone in the dream, there was the conviction that she was waiting for something. For what? A visitor. A visitor was coming and would tell her a secret. It was something to work with. What was she, her visitor-self, trying to tell her solitary cellar-bound self? What part of herself was the deep winter- apple- bound self? What part of her was the deep winter- apple- bound cellar? The green hills? She was not sure, but she felt better. She was able to leave the house, not to take up golf or bridge with the country-club ladies, but to go abroad to paint, to meadows and bayous. Her painting got better. Her egrets began to look less like Audubon's elegant dead birds than like ghosts in the swamp.»

Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome, p 4

Such is the earliest sign in Percy's bestselling thriller about Dr. Tom More. Having been absent for two years from Feliciana County, Louisiana, Dr. More is puzzled to discover that this case study's problem has evaporated without a trace. Instead, she is chipper and unproblematic.

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