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  •  There are many tricks to the power of a secret (20+ / 0-)

    By the time we read the title Oedipus Rex, in these psychologically savvy times, we know the secret. But the beauty is in how that tragic doom drives the entire plot. The king is fated from birth to make those mistakes, and then he is fated by his own character, his need for knowledge and justice, to unveil his own crime and punishment.

    Poe's Tell-Tale Heart is the pith of that, wrought to a higher intensity. It also shows the psychological quirk Poe named and knew well: the Imp of the Perverse. Because the narrator must keep a secret, he cannot.

    There is a weird compulsion in a secret, in our need to keep it, our hunger to know it - and in the way that some people can't keep one if their life depends on it.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 05:16:47 PM PST

    •  Thanks! (14+ / 0-)

      Very interesting...

      the Imp of the Perverse. Because the narrator must keep a secret, he cannot.
      Poe's stories are fascinating besides the plot for what they show us psychologically about ourselves.

      I admit it...I do hunger to know secrets.  :)

      Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 05:30:09 PM PST

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      •  Nicely put (13+ / 0-)

        The Black Cat is another Poe story like that.

        I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

        by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 05:50:09 PM PST

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        •  Poe's a fascinating case: precocious talent but so (11+ / 0-)

          dark and damaged in the end. The whole genius/madness fire we admire and fear - and the weird deep psychologies of those who dig too far.

          Poor Coleridge, who got lost in Opium. Nietzsche (though he had multivalent genius, before the syphilis cramped his mind), Kierkegaard, Kafka, Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick. Most of them with both substance issues and mental imbalance.

          While they dug oblique and peculiar mineshafts, they also found new ores. Each of them expressed fresh conditions of the mind, and shed light on lost caves of humanity. Poe was a narrow but quite brilliant psychologist.

          And if you go even further into the cramped corners of human possibility you find de Sade and Sacher-Masoch, writers who got perversities named after them.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:33:32 PM PST

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          •  well said (10+ / 0-)
            cramped corners of human possibility
            I often wonder...did it help them to write or did the writing make things more intense for them?

            So many good writers had severe problems.  I am grateful to those who were able to get words on the paper.

            Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

            by cfk on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:38:07 PM PST

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            •  I've always thought that we each have a fraction (8+ / 0-)

              of madness in us and, if that fraction weighs too heavy, art can be a very constructive and healing place to put it. I saw an interesting talk about Roget, who wrote the Thesaurus. He was OCD and then some. The gist of the talk was, if he hadn't poured it all into compiling and organizing his Thesaurus, he certainly would have gone completely mad.

              I have worked with schizophrenics and bipolars. If that fraction weighs too heavy, having supportive friends around and a fortunate life make all the difference. So some weirdos (no pejorative intended - I love eccentrics) get serendipity, or just have tough hearts (e.g. Balzac), and find a way to pour all the extremities of their larger-than-life personality into original art. Others never find the way there or (like Syd Barrett and Kurt Cobain) just burn too bright and blow away.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:57:36 PM PST

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            •  did the writing make things more intense for them? (7+ / 0-)

              Maybe so, in de Sade's case. His writings (the couple I've looked at - I had a fascinating class in college, Evil and Decadence in Literature) don't feel like someone integrating their extremities into a larger, more balanced personality. They feel more like de Sade committing fully to the darkest parts of himself, like the serial killer who gets a little more brutal with every incident.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:13:42 PM PST

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          •  Can't argue, Brecht (9+ / 0-)

            b/c you are far more knowledgeable than I am. But I have always wondered how much of Phil Dick's paranoia came from the drugs, and how much of the drugs was from self-medicating for the psychosis (well, I'm not a shrink, so let's just call it mental instability rather than psychosis).

            English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

            by Youffraita on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:39:36 PM PST

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            •  There are R&BLers who know Philip K. Dick better (8+ / 0-)

              than I do - perhaps one will say. My sense is that he had a weird mind, not a broken one, but a turbulent life and way too many drugs burned his candle in all directions. He's more gifted than he might appear at first glance - if you look at his better work, he had a lot of skills as a writer.

              He certainly got stuck in a vicious cycle and never pulled out of it.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:47:40 PM PST

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          •  Okay, I don't remember (8+ / 0-)

            where I saw this: maybe a TV show, maybe a movie I was watching on TV.

            The part I remember was, a character saying "You must have had a very happy childhood" and the implication was: the character being spoken to was well-balanced, they didn't want to be an actor or musician or model or writer. Or politician.

            Implication, of course, being that anyone who strives too much in the arts and is too successful is probably a deeply wounded individual.

            (There are exceptions, of course. I am speaking in generalities here.)

            English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

            by Youffraita on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:45:36 PM PST

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            •  Perhaps there are narrow and holistic strivings? (8+ / 0-)

              So some would be driven by inner daemons, hungers they could never fill; while others would simply grow into a personality overflowing with energy and productivity. It does seem that success completes some people, and they find their whole self there, while it consumes others.

              Shakespeare looks sane to me. Dante poured his demons into his work, and grew stronger. Dickens had an overflowing humanity - but I think he was wounded in his erotic side (witness his failure both as a husband, and in fully owning his feelings for Ellen Ternan). My theory is, he killed himself with too many dramatic readings, hungering for the love from his public that he couldn't find with a woman.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:23:18 PM PST

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              •  That sounds about right. (7+ / 0-)

                I have no opinion re: Shakespeare b/c it's too long ago, and while his plays certainly suggest sanity his personal life is too distant...no opinion. Refuse to guess.

                Going forward:

                I think Meryl Streep is sane. I think Ron Howard is sane (and he's one of the few child stars of whom that can be said).

                I'm going to step out on a limb here, and say that it seems to me that theater actors seem to cling to sanity a bit more than film actors do (especially child film/tv actors).

                And I suspect that the reason theater actors tend to be a tiny bit more grounded than their filmic counterparts is exactly this:

                English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

                by Youffraita on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:40:18 PM PST

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                •  If you're larger than life, the stage is an arena (7+ / 0-)

                  to stretch yourself in, while Hollywood is a plastic madhouse. Yes, as Meryl and Ron show, you can be sane there - but the current's against you.

                  I found acting Shakespeare on stage fulfilling and cathartic, and it both enlarged my personality and gave me confidence. Put me more in touch with my feelings too.

                  There is plenty of room for narcissism on Broadway and in Hollywood. But to succeed onstage you do need to open up your humanity, and you need to connect emotionally to the other actors and the audience. So it's more grounded than, say, being Jack Nicholson.

                  "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                  by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:07:54 PM PST

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                  •  YES. (7+ / 0-)
                    But to succeed onstage you do need to open up your humanity, and you need to connect emotionally to the other actors and the audience.
                    I kinda wouldn't use Nicholson as an example of someone who isn't grounded, b/c I think he sorta/kinda is, aside from the chasing chicks thing. But (like Susan Sarandon) Nicholson worked his way up from the B movies. Neither of them was thrust into stardom before they were, oh, about twenty-five.

                    sigh I am not articulating this well, perhaps. But when I think about someone who succeeded onstage by opening up her humanity, I think of Stop Kiss. Off Broadway. Wonderful play: I cried.

                    I think of the Vornes play Letters from Cuba. Off Broadway. I cried.

                    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

                    by Youffraita on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:18:52 PM PST

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                    •  Seems to me that Nicholson is in touch with his (7+ / 0-)

                      own humanity, and couldn't give a damn about most other people's (except his friends). Some agent or manager of his said that he'd lived through all of his neuroses and come out the other side - which is brave and impressive.

                      It's hard to see how much heart there is behind Nicholson's mask. But he does appear to pour his humanity into his ego, while Streep puts all of hers at the service of her art. They may be the two most academy award nominated actors of all time.

                      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                      by Brecht on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:01:06 PM PST

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            •  I don't think successful artists are wounded, (10+ / 0-)

              necessarily.

              At age 3, Isabelle di Borchgrave was drawing on the sand in southern France.  An old man came up to her and drew with her and encouraged her.  It was Picasso!  She had inborn talent and drive.  She is a paper artist.

              Another artist showing at our museum started making collages at age 2, according to his mother.  His characters are kind of dark superheroes.

              Many, many artists start at under 4-5 years old, and I don't think they are wounded except maybe they are more observant than most of us.

              •  How interesting! (7+ / 0-)

                Good for Picasso.

                I think of Dylan Thomas and Hart Crane and Sylvia Plath and Hemingway and so many others...

                I love it that children do become artists after showing such talent early on.

                Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

                by cfk on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:43:36 PM PST

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              •  Not necessarily, no. (6+ / 0-)

                But so many child actors wind up ... in bad scenarios.

                Maybe child painters don't get the adulation (and access to drugs) that the kids on TV get.

                I don't know, really. It just does seem that often a deep psychic wound impels artistic creation.

                This is not an original observation of mine.

                English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

                by Youffraita on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:45:21 PM PST

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              •  OH! (6+ / 0-)

                frosti, by "artist" I meant "child in the arts" -- specifically child actors. I didn't mean kids who paint or draw. Or write.

                I meant all those kids who make way too much money at an early age, and can't handle it. Like Lindsay Lohan. Y'know?

                When I say "artist" I mean someone who makes ANY form of art. It doesn't have to be visual arts. If I mean that, I will specify it.

                English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

                by Youffraita on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:54:54 PM PST

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              •  I saw an exhibit of her paper dresses (8+ / 0-)

                at the Legion on Honor in SF a few years ago.  What an amazing experience that was!  It's nice to hear her name again.  I remember the Fortuny "fabrics" because I was deep into reading Proust then and he was obsessed with Fortuny.

                It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

                by Radiowalla on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:18:53 PM PST

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                •  Yes, our curator saw that exhibit and so, we (8+ / 0-)

                  are now showing it.  Isabelle created a dressing gown based on a description of one in Remembrance of Things Past.  It was her interpretation.  The actual paragraph just mentioned blue, black and gold with birds.  Hers looks like a Japanese indigo design with cranes.  Such beauty.  

                  I wish I had seen it in San Francisco because I like to evaluate the effect of curatorial decisions on the art.  My niece is an assistant curator in SF.

                  •  How interesting! (6+ / 0-)

                    The narrator of "Remembrance"  bought a Fortuny dressing gown for Albertine, his "prisoner" in La Prisonnière and there are memorably luscious descriptions of it.  No wonder then that Isabelle wished to recreate it.  

                    SF is becoming a much more sophisticated city for art, I think.  My compliments to your niece and her colleagues.

                    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

                    by Radiowalla on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:52:31 PM PST

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