Archive for non-fiction

…this magical substance…

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2011 by Mj Rains

Sigmund Freud’s Cocaine Years
Article by Sherwin Nuland

On April 21, 1884, a 28-year-old researcher in the field now called neuroscience sat down at the cluttered desk of his cramped room in Vienna General Hospital and composed a letter to his fiancée, Martha Bernays, telling her of his recent studies: “I have been reading about cocaine, the effective ingredient of coca leaves,” Sigmund Freud wrote, “which some Indian tribes chew in order to make themselves resistant to privation and fatigue.

Less than a month later, Freud was writing to Bernays about the many self-experiments in which he had swallowed various quantities of the drug, finding it useful in relieving brief episodes of depression and anxiety. Later, he described how “a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now busy collecting the literature” — in German, French and English — “for a song of praise to this magical substance.”

That song of praise was “Über Coca,” a monograph published in July 1884 in a highly regarded journal. In his perceptive new book, “An Anatomy of Addiction,” Howard Markel points out that this landmark essay — Freud’s first major scientific publication — was in fact a turning point for the young scientist. “The most striking feature of ‘Über Coca’ is how Sigmund incorporates his own feelings, sensations and experiences into his scientific observations,” Markel writes. “When comparing this study with his previous works, a reader cannot help but be struck by the vast transition he makes from recording reproducible, quantitatively measurable, controlled laboratory observations to exploring thoughts and feelings. In essence, ‘Über Coca’ introduces a literary character that would become a standard feature in Sigmund’s work: himself. From this point on, Freud often applies his own (and later his patients’) experiences and thoughts in his writings as he works to create a universal theory of the mind and human nature. It was a method that for its time would prove scientifically daring, at times somewhat incautious, and, in terms of the creation of psychoanalysis, strikingly productive.”

More here

Character, atmosphere…

Posted in Anais Nin with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2011 by Mj Rains


First a quote:

“It isn’t good to stay too long in the polluted air of history.”- Anais Nin

I love this excerpt from The Diary of Anais Nin, Volume Three.

It is taken from text written in April, 1940, when she lived in New York.

“I rented a furnished apartment on Washington Square West.  The Village has character, atmosphere.  The houses are old, the shops small.  In the Square old Italians play chess on stone tables.  There are trees, patios, back yards.  It has a history.  The university was built by the Dutch.  I love the ginko trees, the studio windows, the small theaters, Blecker Street with its vegetable carts, fish shops, cheese shops.  It is human.  People stroll about.  They sit in the park.

My bed is convertible, which means it vanishes into a closet.  I am always afraid it will do this while I am asleep.”


Life Interrupted….more reading….

Posted in Books, Writers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by Mj Rains

Yes, yet again life is interrupted with great reading….this time in the form of a great book by the late Spalding Gray.

Life Interrupted, The Unfinished Monologue, was Gray’s last work. He was a pretty well-known actor, appearing in such films as The Killing Fields and Steven Soderbergh’s Gray’s Anatomy. He is best known for his one-man shows on Broadway, a lone man sitting at a desk, with a glass of water and a notebook, performing the monologues of his life. He was still working on Life Interrupted, and suffering from intense depression, when he died in 2004, another tragic suicide in which it is believed that he jumped off the Stanton Island ferry, his body found in the East River a week later.

Life Interrupted sort of tells the initiation he had into his depth of depression, recounting the tale of the car accident he was in on a trip to Ireland with his wife and some friends. Heavily present throughout the reader can feel  “a lot of death in the air.”  The accident left Gray’s right hip crushed, an injury he never fully recovered from, and an injury to his brain from a cranium fracture, that went undetected for some time (Irish hospitals were not up to snuff, and quite filthy it seems during his stay). Gray’s intense and honest words hold the reader captive. I could only imagine him acting them out on stage, or perhaps I’d rather have listened to him over a glass of wine in the living room just sharing his thoughts straight out…laughing and crying at the same time.

I’ll leave you with the end quote:

“I’ve never been able to give advice before in my life. I’ve always been a relativist, and someone who felt that he didn’t know. Even as a father it’s been difficult to say what exactly one should and should not do in this world of confusing, relativistic, movable-feast morality.  But I have to say that I now can give advice around one issue, or two issues:  Always wear your seat belt in the back seat of the car, which I’m sure you know, whether you do it or not.  And whatever you do, get an American Express platinum card–it’s only three hundred dollars extra–so you can be medevacked the fuck out of a foreign country if you get in an accident.

Thank you for coming tonight.”

Books for the Feminist

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by Mj Rains

Still delving into this one….complete esoteric and spiritual view of a woman’s body, inside and out.  An uplifting experience….Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom….highly recommended.

And this book, A Woman’s Worth I read some years ago….was quite awakening to read it again….

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