Friday, June 18, 2021

Janet Malcolm, R.I.P.

Sadly, Janet Malcolm passed away yesterday. She was one of our greatest writers and her voice will be missed. She was surely one of the most important and influential writers on matters psychoanalytic.

To mark the occasion I link to a review she wrote for the New York Times Book Review, in 1983. The title of her article was “Therapeutic Rudeness.” The subject was a book written by yours truly: Jacques Lacan: The Death of an Intellectual Hero.

The review recalls the time when I was proselytizing the psychoanalytic faith. As for right and wrong, I will admit that she was more right than I was.

But, without further ado, here is an excerpt:

FOR an ordinary literate person, reading the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan is like being trapped in a cave whose entrance is blocked by a huge rock. Outside, one hears the hammerings and heavings of the rescue mission that has rushed to the scene - the explicators and annotators of Lacan's texts, who wield the heaviest of modern intellectual equipment (the structural linguistics of Saussure and Jakobson, the structural anthropology of Levi-Strauss, the philosophy of Hegel and Heidegger, the metapsychology of Freud) - but which makes no headway against the monolith of Lacan's magisterial hermeticism. For if the general reader hasn't the omniscience to read Lacan unaided, neither has he the will to follow Lacan's explicators in their slow and hesitant unknottings of the enigma of his beautiful and meshuggeneh prose….

IN this context of doubt and difficulty, Stuart Schneiderman's brilliant and confident book about Lacan, which one reads in a single avid and effortless sitting, comes almost as a shock. Mr. Schneiderman writes like someone who has arrived in a room slightly out of breath, with so much to say that he doesn't even take off his coat. He is a former academic who in 1973 did what no other Lacanstruck American had thought to do: He picked up and went to Paris to be analyzed by Lacan and to receive analytic training at Lacan's Ecole freudienne. ''I decided that it would be contradictory for me to continue explicating texts when I knew nothing of the experience from which the texts were drawn,'' Mr. Schneiderman writes. ''Thus I left Buffalo and a career as professor of English to become a Lacanian psychoanalyst.''


R. I. P.


Sam L. said...

I'd like to read "Therapeutic Rudeness", but it's in the NYT, which I do not trust, and will not pay to read.

Mark said...

Thanks for that self-deprecating link, which I read. I don't trust the NYT either, but i have no qualms about reading a review of this type for free.
I have had little or no exposure to either Lacan or Janet Malcolm, but now I have a bit more, thanks to you. I appreciate it!