Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bugs in the Brain

Instead of writing, I've been wandering around online. A Simpsons website led to a clip of The Pathological Liar, Jon Lovitz's SNL character (“Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket”), which led to the investigation of the following ailments, none of which, alas, has any place in the novel I am (not) writing.

Pseudologia Fantastica: Uncontrollable lying. Also known as mythomania.  

The afflicted tell fantastical tales signifying their uniqueness, worth and courage (friendship with celebrities, kinship with royalty, gratitude of maidens rescued from railway tracks). They are not seeking any obvious material gain from the listener, so this is not a case of sociopathic manipulation, and they are not otherwise deluded or psychotic (although some experts consider the stories a form of “wish psychosis”).

Is it a case of damage to the membrane that normally keeps daydreams and fantasies inside their heads? A coding problem? Poorly executed fiction, and in the wrong medium to boot? At some level the afflicted know their stories are not true, unlike people suffering from

Morgellons Disorder: Syndrome in which sufferers experience symptoms of a mysterious skin disorder.

The afflicted experience burning, crawling or itching sensations (formication) and skin lesions, and claim that red, black and blue fibres erupt from their skin. Sufferers have identified a range of potential causes, from genetically modified foods and environmental pollutants to aliens. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control have determined that Morgellons is a form of

Delusional Parasitosis: Mistaken belief that one is suffering from parasites such as lice, scabies or worms.

The afflicted experience formication and often present proof of infestation in the form of skin scrapings, lint or other particles, usually carried in a small container  (the “matchbox sign”), but lab tests show no parasites. My sister and I have both suffered this affliction on our travels (she gets delusional scabies, I get delusional lice); our delusions arose after we contracted and treated the real thing. The difference? With the real thing, you know you have it, and that is the end of it. The delusional one doesn't feel like a cold, incontrovertible fact; it is a kind of brain fever. You are convinced you have it, and that is just the beginning.

Having spent two hours on fictional bugs, I now pledge to spend an equal amount of time on fiction. Cold, incontrovertible fact: writing fiction is hard work. A little brain fever would help.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twelve of '12 in Twelve or Less

Twelve books I loved in 2012, in the order that I read them, and why I loved them in twelve words or less:
  1. The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. The old story-telling Ondaatje returns.  
  2. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, I didn’t.
  3. Galore by Michael Crummey. One Hundred Years of Solitude in Newfoundland.
  4. Just Kids by Patti Smith. Love, create, lose, create, love. Repeat.
  5. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeannette Winterson. How literature can save your life.
  6. Open City by Teju Cole. Long walks with unusually perceptive but ultimately unreliable narrator unnerve reader.
  7. Ninety Days by Bill Clegg. Memoir of relapse and recovery, and what makes the difference.
  8. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Waters. You'll need a Do Not Disturb sign: “I’m readin’ here.”
  9. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. This is how you win a MacArthur Genius Grant.
  10. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. A different kind of addiction: can a person eat themselves to death?
  11. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Marie Semple. "I'm still readin' here."
  12. Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt. Great antidote to all the nonsense about world's demise on 21/12/2012.