[Paleopsych] Meme 036: Frank Is Abandoning Reality

Werbos, Dr. Paul J. paul.werbos at verizon.net
Fri Oct 29 01:07:48 UTC 2004

At 05:59 AM 10/28/2004 -0400, Premise Checker wrote:
>Meme 036: Frank Is Abandoning Reality
>sent 4.10.28, 4:59 am Central War Time, the minute of his 60th birthday in 
>Kansas City, Mo.
>"I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten 
>over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except that it 
>had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that 
>everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my 
>life you could call my life on the road...."
>I am abandoning reality for fiction and will stop reading non-fiction 
>books. I think I know pretty much, at least in outline form, what is 
>actually known about human nature from the biological and social sciences. 
>Novelists have a way of getting at the complexities of the human condition 
>that scientists have not.

Something in this. Novelists are less constrained by the reinvented 
colleges of cardinals.

But Pribram's book on Freud should not be underestimated here... and there 
are other glimmers.
It is as much a matter of how one uses those sources as the sources themselves.

>So not having read much fiction since I read all twelve volumes of 
>Dostoyevsky in the 1970s, I am returning to deepen my understanding. What 
>aspects of our humanity may we be giving up as we take control of human 
>nature through manipulating the genome, through nanotechnology, 
>biotechnology, artificial intelligence, man-machine hookups? Will we 
>become the emotionally flat robots depicted in science fiction novels and 
>movies? Could our selves and our lives, instead, become deeper, even 
>deeper than Beethoven in his last decade?

Good question. In fact, one of the all-pervasive fault lines out there today.
I suspect fears on those lines have a lot to do with Kerry not being in a 
landslide situation today,
and with the Islam versus Europe divide (which in many ways is mirrored in 
the Bush-Kerry divide).

Not robots, but faulty memes, inability to go from thesis and antithesis to 
synthesis, are the immediate causes...

>I also want to know how human nature varies. Is the world converging to 
>one system of thinking? Or has there been enough gene-culture coevolution 
>of human populations--it's still taboo to say races, owing to lingering 
>20th century egalitarianism--that there will be significant *internal* 
>barriers to Western hegemony? As I said in my last meme, there has been a 
>major reorientation of the dominant left-right polarity, from central 
>planning vs. free market in the earlier twentieth century and equality vs. 
>inequality in the later part to pluralism vs. universalism in this century.

See above. In Freudian terms... are we moving to an Ericsonian leap in 
maturity, or a
collective nervous breakdown? I sure don't know.

>I'm asking for lists of your favorite novels, stressing non-Western 
>literature, those that have depth of characterization and are worth 
>rereading. (But are novels all alike, the medium being the message?) I've 
>read all of the (University of Chicago) Great Books (except that I could 
>only get through a quarter of War and Peace) but have read only one 
>non-Western novel, Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima. I need to broaden my 
>learning. So please send your lists. (I do NOT read poetry.) Books that 
>appear on many lists are most likely to get read. I shall assume your 
>permission to forward your lists, unless you tell me otherwise.

There are many too many.

Was a bit amused by Waley's Tao Te Ching, the other day. In some ways, I 
like the
new fancy color Tao Te Ching with three translators better, but Waley has 
important history.

Curt Benjamin's "silly" fantasy series captures some of the spirit of Chinese
and Golden Horde cultures.

The Creation of the Gods book (published in Beijing) made great bed-time 
reading for my kids
a few years back.

Have you ever read Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus? I am appalled by how badly 
the new Gnostic
introducer/interpreter screws it up... but it has some curious resonances.

But... Western style Novels written by nonWesterners?  None of the above 

And what is Western, anyway?

It is Asia other than Russia, plus Islam and Africa, or Native American?

That's hard. I don't know a lot IN that intersection of categories!

Satanic Verses by Rushdie? I haven't even gotten around to reading it;
there are other sources on that culture.

There ARE a few famous Novels from China and Japan, but I am not sure how 
deep they go.
Popular romance stuff is the best known.

I remember a Chinese friend who once said "Science Fiction?
We have those Gung Fu movies..."


Maybe a hole in my education...
or maybe not.


>(Having last had an English class in 1964--yes, I am that old--my memory 
>of what happened in those classes is completely vague. How is a 40 or 50 
>minute class, that is in neither a lecture nor a seminar format, get 
>filled up? Can anyone point me toward webpages of transcripts of typical 
>literature classes?)
>I have four categories in my project:
>I.   Western novels
>II.  Non-Western novels
>III. Science fiction novels
>IV . Religion, books of or about.
>Here's the list of what I've accumulated so far:
>1.  Kerouac, Jack, On the Road. America. This will be the first book. I
>     read.
>2.  Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. England. Never read anything by
>     her.
>3.  Balzac, Honoré. The Bureaucrats. France. Since I've lived among the
>     bureaucrats far longer than Margaret Mead lived among the
>     Samoans, this novel is probably the one for me to get
>     introduced to Balzac.
>4.  Colman, Hila. Diary of a Frantic Kid Sister. America. Teen-age: I
>     should know something about this genre.
>5.  Goethe, Johann von. Elective Affinities. Germany. Sarah's very
>     favorite.
>6.  Gover, Robert. One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding. America. One of
>     Charles Sletten's favorites.
>7.  Huysmans, Joris-Karl. Against Nature and La-Bas. Germany. Two of
>     Sarah's other favorites.
>8.  Jelinek, Elfriede. Wonderful, Wonderful Times. Austria. Just won the
>     Nobel Prize for Literature.
>9.  Jünger, Ernst. On the Marble Cliffs. Germany. Another of Sarah's
>     favorites.
>10. Kleist, Heinrich von. The Marquise of O- and Other Stories.
>     Germany. Given to me by George. Kleist never wrote a novel and
>     committed suicide at age 34.
>11. O'Connor, Flannery. America. Three by Flannery O'Connor.
>12. Schaefer, Jack. Shane. America. A casebook. I love casebooks, for the
>     give me background! Love Cliff Notes, too, since I have great difficulty
>     following lots of characters.
>13. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. England. A Casebook. I have read
>     the play but need to really study it.
>14. Trevor, William. The Story of Lucy Gault. Ireland. One of Marcia's
>     favorites.
>15. Wilson, Sloan. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. America. A classic
>     work from the 1950s protesting the conformity of the era. Others include
>     Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged; David Reisman, The Lonely Crowd; Robert
>     Lindner, Prescription for Rebellion; C. Wright Mills, The Power
>     Elite; William Whyte, The Organization Man. All non-fiction here,
>     except Atlas Shrugged, but I don't know fiction very well.
>16. Wolfe, Thomas. You Can't Go Home Again. America.
>17. Zola, Emile. Earth. France. Given to me by Denise, but I'll probably
>     read the much more famous Nana instead.
>18. The Dedalus Book of Decadence (Moral Ruins). A sampler. France. We
>     have a division of labor in our house: I read the books on cynicism
>     and nihilism, while Sarah reads the books on decadence and
>     degeneration. But this is fiction, so I shall read it.
>19. Goethe, Tieck, Fouqué, Brentano. Romantic Fairy Tales. German.
>1.  García Márques, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Colombia. This
>     will be my first non-Western novel. Almost everyone recommends it. 
> I'll be
>     getting a case book and the Cliff Notes. I've downloaded everything
>     on it from http://www.oprah.com.
>2.  Allende, Isabel. Chile. Several lying around the apartment, I don't
>     know which to read first.
>3.  Borges, Jorge Luis. Collected Fictions. Argentina. He never wrote a
>     novel. Another non-Western author nearly everyone recommends.
>4.  Borges, Jorge Luis. Selected Non-Fiction. This is literature, really.
>5.  Jin, Ha. Waiting. China.
>6.  Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The Buru Quartet. Java. Given to me by
>     Denise. Will read one volume initially.
>7.  Mahfouz, Naguib. The Thief and the Dogs. Egypt. Winner of the Nobel
>     Prize for Literature in 1988.
>8.  Murasaki Shikibu [Lady Muraski]. The Tale of Genji. Japan. My copy is
>     just Part One. If I like it, I can get the whole thing.
>9.  Tanizaki, Junichiro. Some Prefer Nettles. Japan. Given to my by
>     Denise.
>10. Truong, Monique. The Book of Salt. Vietnam. She noted that Gertrude
>     Stein and Alice B. Toklas had a Vietnamese cook, so she wrote a
>     novel about Paris in the 1930s from the standpoint of the cook!
>11. Watase, Yu. Alice 19th. A Japanese Manga (comic book format). You can
>     get a mangastrap, a jacket designed for holding your arms to read
>     mangas on long Japanese subway rides. A good idea, but as Japanese
>     goods are very expensive, they cost $160 to import!
>1. Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age. Given to me by Carolyn and
>    autographed by the Author at the National Book Festival earlier
>    this month. This will be my first science fiction novel.
>2. Anderson, Poul. A Midsummer Tempest. Patterned after two Shakespeare
>    plays.
>3. Asimov, Isaac, et al., editors. The 7 Deadly Sins of Science Fiction.
>    I've already read The 7 Cardinal Virtues. 4. Benford, Gregory (et 
> al.), editors. Hitler Victorious.
>5. Brown, Fredric. Compliments of a Fiend. The only Fred Brown book,
>    published in his lifetime, that I have not read.
>6. Herbert, Frank. Dune. I can get the Spark Notes on this one.
>7. Le Guin, Ursula. The Dispossessed. Actually, I don't physically own
>    a copy, but this seems to be the first one to read. How will it compare
>    to Dostoyevsky's novel of the same title?
>8. Wells, H.G. The Time Machine. Casebook version.
>9. Wells, H.G. The War of the Worlds. Casebook version.
>1. Gregg, Steve. Revelation: Four Views, a Parallel Commentary. This book
>    gives the four principle interpretations of the last book in the
>    Bible in parallel columns for each verse. This will be my first book
>    in this category.
>2. Cleary, Thomas, translator and presentor. The Essential Koran. I do
>    not want to read the entire Koran.
>I have stacks of other books of or on religion, too many to list. I also 
>have lots of unread books on the art that probes the human condition more 
>than any other, namely Western music. I have multiple recordings of nearly 
>all the great masterpieces of classical instrumental music.
>In order to speed myself in this task of abandoning reality, I'm stopping 
>my finding and forwarding articles on many subjects until I've read at 
>least one book in each category. I read slowly and have no idea how many 
>months this will take. (This may grow into a full sabbatical. I need, too, 
>to catch up on stacks of back issues of the Times Literary Supplement, 
>long my favorite serial. I shall continue to bounce articles to my various 
>lists at the request of others. And I'll continue to participate in 
>threads started by others.
>In parallel with the books above, I'll be reading Mary Ann Caws and 
>Christopher Prendergast, The HarperCollins World Reader (2 v., 2796 pp.), 
>along with its Instructor's Manual (846 pp. The only copy in the OCLC 
>World Cat database is at the Mohawk Valley Community College!) and the 
>accompanying Issues in World Literature (a mere 108 pp.). I will also be 
>reading the President's Council on Bioethics (Leon Kass, chairman) 
>anthology, Being Human, which consists of selections from literature, 
>almost entirely Western. The purpose of the book is to display the 
>fullness of human nature, or at least Western human nature, to caution us 
>about getting rid of it. Whether Kass believes West is Best, I don't know.
>I'm launching a website immediately after sending this. It is 
>http://www.panix.com/~checker (you must include the tilde). I shall upload 
>more on Beethoven's birthday. If you have sent me e-mail and really wanted 
>a reply but didn't get one, bug me. I've just gotten too far behind. I'm 
>not blanking out, for I hold my hypotheses lightly and do not want to 
>continue chasing after bad ones.
>Get to work on lists of novels, particularly non-Western novels, for me to 
>[I am sending forth these memes, not because I agree wholeheartedly with 
>all of them, but to impregnate females of both sexes. Ponder them and
>spread them.]
>paleopsych mailing list
>paleopsych at paleopsych.org

More information about the paleopsych mailing list