On the airplane I read the article in Harper’s by Rachel Aviv about “prodrome,” a new and important word for me: the semi-psychotic state that can precede psychosis. Her “Anna” has the perfect set of delusions, utterly coherent as a metaphoric landscape, particularly for a writer (me, not Anna). People seem like paper, the world feels immaterial, she is unconvinced by it, her thoughts feel like “things,” logic ceases to function as conclusive… it is not hard to suspend belief in logic, in mathematics, in physics and chemistry, that these are beliefs in systems that I have been convinced exist a priori, which I think just means existing before other things, ie the things that are god. That is not a new thought. It was newer when microwaves came out and I asked my father to explain them to me and no matter how well he explained them I could not believe it, conceive of it, remember it. Even as Anna is unconvinced of the materiality of the world, she is not paralyzed with fear that she will fall through the floor, and yet that logic doesn’t alleviate her sense that the floor is a rumor. It is both, also neither. It is simultaneous, the name of the chapter I am trying to write. I did not want to use a microwave for a long time, but now I use it, gleefully obliviously, with my own special rules. I still wonder if my coffee gets colder faster when it is microwaved than when it brewed for real. Anna is also not totally convinced of her own materiality. The article is about uncertainty vs conviction, and I find this very comforting because that’s what I’ve been trying to work on for years, even before I knew I was working on psychosis as real fiction. It feels a little magic to be already operating in relation to a lot of the ways of conceiving of things that Ms. Aviv presents in this article, because she seems very expert. It’s one of those moments I remember from writing my last novel, the feeling of being onto something, without feeling what you’re onto is only news to you. It may be that my novel is about versions of this state that are not clearly identifiable as “healthy” or not, and maybe try to leave that word in the margins, because it so controls the discourse in our pharma-ciety. Leave it maybe until there is maybe a chapter called “drugs.” Which don’t get me wrong I believe in.
I also have this desire to send my narrator to China. You know, because of the money, the bubbles, and the overwhelming foreignness. The airplane was for my trip to read at Wesleyan, and there is nothing like being queen for a day to make you want to live up to what it feels like people think of you that you always wanted someone to think.
Sidenote I just realized Ms. Aviv reviewed my novel in the Believer, six years ago. I remember it as a generous review, but I didn’t understand why she thought my teenagers were bored suburbanites and it bothered me that they could come off that way.