[Paleopsych] Alice Andrews: Playing with Myself: Questions for myself about my novel, Trine Erotic

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Our list member has written the very first novel written around 
evolutionary psychology ideas, and I can recommend it highly. It is 
composed of stories with stories, and you're never quite sure what the 
reality is. It's like postmodernism in this way. And you wonder to what 
extent the novel is autobiographical or about the person the author wished 
she were or just made up of creatures that exemplify what evolutionary 
psychology demands that they do.

But it's quite clear that the female protagonists very much want men they 
can bat ideas around with, though there's no place for the love of ideas 
for their own sake in evolutionary psychology. The narrators seem to know 
this, though they want to transcend these limits. Gordon Tullock, an 
economics professor I had, thought that altruism in humans was the result 
of an evolutionary defect: we had not been humans long enough for altruism 
to have been weeded out! I'm sure he'd worry that Alice is defective, 
being much too in love with ideas.

One answer, that she apparently doesn't know about, is that evolution 
takes place on many levels, not just at the level of the gene. This makes 
group selection possible and makes room for altruism. The book here is 
Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson, _Unto Others_, which is slowly 
getting accepted in the biology community. (Paradigm shifts do take time, 
you know.)

Another answer is that, however much the overall selfish gene theory is 
true, our desires are indirect mechanisms to promote the overall goal and 
that there are many of these desires. Steven Reiss came up with 16 basic 
desires that are relatively independent of one another. Desiring to raise 
(one's own) children is largely independent of romance (which includes 
the neighboring desires of wanting coitus and of wanting aesthetic 
experiences. Why the latter, I'm not sure, but factor analysis puts the 
three of them together.). And both are independent of curiosity, which is 
at the top of my list and my wife's (I am sure) and at least near the top 
of Alice's.

What's also missing from the novel, as it is from evolutionary psychology 
generally, is the desire for a long-term monogamous commitment, which is 
a quite different kind of love.

Note to myself: you've got to get around to buying and reading C.S. Lewis' 
_The Four Loves_. You shouldn't let your atheism keep you from the book. 
After all, Moses and Solomon (less so Jesus) were proto-sociobiologists.


Alice Andrews: Playing with Myself: Questions for myself about my novel, Trine 

[This is the first novel written from the perspective of evolutionary 
psychology. I am finishing it up now and am enjoying its playfulness 

    Q What are some of the major questions you try to deal with in Trine

    A Well, there are quite a few: Is there free will? What is the will?
    What is and is there a single Ia self? Are we determined by our genes?
    Can we (and how and what affect does it have to) go against our
    nature? What is the unconscious? Is it what evolutionary psychologists
    refer to as our universal human nature? Or is it something else? And
    how does it work? And is there a universal human nature? How does
    culture influence us? What is art? What is love? And is there
    something beyond our evolutionary, deep reflexessome kind of global
    brain, as Howard Bloom suggests, that is motivating us?

    Q You dedicate the book to every womans desire and the art within her
    and to alpha males everywhere. Does that mean its not for other
    malessay, Beta?

    A No, no. Its sort of tongue-in-cheeky. Im playing with the
    evolutionary theory that art is displayed as a mating signal/strategy.
    So Im saying: Here is this piece of artand, naturally, I would want to
    signal the highest type of man. Of course, alpha male is subjective
    when it comes to humansfor apes it may be just a factor of strength or
    posing. For me, an alpha male doesnt always look like an alpha; a man
    could be an alpha and work in a factory but be an original thinker and
    want to lead or organize people. (David M. Busss work explains this,
    actually.) But anyway, its not just for alpha males. Its for all
    males. But its particularly for men who are creative and deep and
    interested in figuring out the world . . . understanding human nature,
    and more. And it's for females too!

    Q Why did you write the book?

    A Well, for one, I was compelled to write. And there are a lot of
    other reasons as well. But, I have to say that I found the fiction I
    was reading leaving me cold. I just found myself not getting turned on
    by all that good literature. I wanted to be turned on. I saw the
    appeal; saw the code of it. You know, theres something here in this
    story but Im not going to let on to what it is because youre supposed
    to get it because were so smart, and good fiction shows and doesnt
    tell.  And Im not going to even attempt to affect you in any way
    because that would be pompous and sentimental and ultimately
    ineffective. And were so sophisticated and subtle. I guess these are
    some of the rules of fiction. Like how you shouldnt write out ideas.
    And its related to the seduction/anti-seduction stuff I write about in
    the book. Most modern fiction is quite seductive, in the
    Baudrillardian sense, by trying or appearing not to seduce. I think my
    style is anti-anti-seductionor [2]meta-seduction. I am possibly
    "seducing" by going against a seductive "hiding" strategy. For
    example, I can choose to wear revealing clothing (which isnt
    seductive) or less revealing clothing, which concealswhich is
    seductive. But I can wear the revealing clothes as a reaction to the
    seductive strategy, which says, Im not trying to seduce with the
    not-trying-to-seduce clothes. And this is seductive in its own waya
    hiding from hiding. Of course, the revealing clothing looks the
    sameits just a matter of intention. And only a few will be able to
    read the code or signal. I realize this is made confusing because I am
    using Baudrillards sense of the word. In fact, what you have are three
    things working: seduction (in its denotation), anti-seduction, and
    anti-anti-seduction or meta-seduction. Dont tell me Im confusing

    Im not terribly affected by most fiction (though I know Im in the
    minority). And Im not proud of that fact. Its just the way I am. Im
    not very subtle. I like to read nonfiction. Otherwise I feel like Im
    wasting my time. Id rather be doing something or writing or learning
    something. Unfortunately I dont have that feeling (that Im learning
    something, etc.) when I read most fiction. And perhaps that is a fault
    of mine. Perhaps Im just not refined enough or my personality doesnt
    allow me to slow down. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that
    Im right-brain dominant. I really see a difference though, between
    people who love fiction and me. And, thankfully, Ive stopped worrying
    that theres something wrong with me in this.

    For the record, I dont place a value on one or the otherseductive
    fiction (which is what is accepted and favored) versus meta-seductive
    fiction (fiction which tells you what its doing, openly wants to
    affect, deals with ideas, etc.).

    But to answer your question: I wrote a book that I was wanting to

    Q Is there any fiction you do like?

    A Oh, of course. I loved Smillas Sense of Snow, liked Jeanette
    Wintersons Sexing the Cherry, D.H. Lawrenceliked Kundera when I was
    younger Dostoevsky, John Berger, Hermann Hesse, and [3]there are

    Q You mention wanting to affect the reader. What kind of affect are
    you hoping for?

    A Any, I suppose. Nietzsche wrote that the effect of works of art is
    to excite the state that creates art . . . he says its intoxication .
    . . First and foremost, I want the reader to get some pleasure from
    it. After that, its mostly a working out of some of the questions
    which seem to haunt us, stuff about love. And I suppose I want it to
    be a part of the readers working it out, like a friend. There is also
    the sort of feministy thing about desire and art in women. I suppose I
    would like TE to inspire women to let loose their desire and art more.
    In Sirens Song, the nameless protagonist says her father told her that
    the point about art was to share itabout an audience. Which reminds me
    of a scene in Bride of the Wind, a film about Alma Mahler I just saw
    on video. Alma says to her husband Mahler, I wish youd conduct one of
    my songs. And he says, One of your songs? . . . Perhaps one day in
    rehearsal. And she says, Rehearsal? But then there wouldnt be an
    audience. And he says, Ill be there. Arent I enough? And Im interested
    in this. Because despite the womens rights movement and so much
    liberation and so many women artists, I still think there is this
    thing within us (women) . . . a resistance . . . and I question its
    etiology. If such a resistance existsor rather, a relative lack of
    desire to broadcast compared to menis it innate? That is, is it
    related to biology, to the evolutionary theory that men try to
    broadcast to as many women as possible, since it is in their genetic
    interest to do so? (Or since they are the product of millions of years
    of evolution which ensured such a tendency persisted?) Or is it
    cultural? Or some admixture? Again, I question my premise as well. Im
    interested in trying to uncover whether or not such a tendency exists.
    I certainly have felt my relative lack of desire to broadcast. But of
    course, that could have everything to do with other things:
    personality, conditioning, stage of life, etc.

    About my Sirens Song character: her feeling had always been that it
    was something that had to do with her (whatever her art was, be it
    painting or writing); she didnt have an impulse to broadcast it. And
    so, there is this question about what art is, and its purpose and
    function. And, in some sense, the book is my grappling with deciding
    to share whatever it is in meand that in my sharing of it, there is
    meaning. There is a dialectics of desire, as Barthes saysand I quote
    him at the beginning of Sirens Song. For me, I couldnt and wouldnt
    want to put the book out there if I didnt think it would serve some
    kind of purpose. And of course, art is purposeful. It is motivated by
    all sorts of deep, powerful urges. The artist experiences it as an
    outpouring of some kind of force that has to be expelled, a feeling of
    compulsion. And then theres that choice an artist makesdo you go mad
    or stay somewhat functionally neurotic, or do you release and create?
    (The existential problem of whether or not it is a choice, I cant
    answer. My answer probably changes with my mood.)

    But also, there is the EP theory of art as signal. And in some ways
    that is also about survival. So I see art as a saviorfor the artist
    but also for the audience, of course. Once I decided that Trine Erotic
    was for an audience, it took on a whole new light. It was outward
    directed and relating, and it was pleasurable in a way that before it
    hadnt been (that is, writing for myself). So much goes unsaid in the
    culture. Most of us (except perhaps for some hard-core feminists)
    think women are free to do their thing. We have this sense,
    historically and culturally, that women are now free. Yet I dont
    really think so. I think its good to show a female character who feels
    restricted with respect to desire and the art within her. I think some
    women will identify and it may feel liberating, or help create
    movement. And of course, thats where the fiction reactionaries come
    in. I shouldnt be so pompous as to think that something I have created
    could have some kind of affect. But to me, perhaps because Im a woman
    and mother (it may be nature or nurture or both), I dont see why you
    would put something out there if it wasnt for some good, for some use.
    And that is also tied in to the notion that it could be my compulsion
    and selfishness (much like an overbearing parent) that made me
    continue to write new stories, though it felt like love, but that it
    is finally the selfless love for the reader that allows me to stop
    creatingto allow the reader to create something of their own from the
    book or envision the next story or storiesto be individuated and truly
    the artist, to be free.

    Q This seems related to the whole reader response issue in the novel .
    . .

    A Yes.  I say the book is alive. And in a way, the book is like a
    lover. It is also a meme (or memeplexwhat I call memesome). I, the
    author, am egoless; the words are not minetheyre this meme. And the
    words belong to the reader, and the reader is the artistcreating
    meaning and art through the reading.

    Q You say feministy, but sometimes you sound downright backwards about
    women in the novel. The scene with the woman walking behind Caleb, for
    example, youre not critical of ityou seem to romanticize it.

    A Well, first of all, the most interesting thing about people is their
    contradictions. I think thats why Ed and Calebs characters are
    interesting. I am putting those questions out there, because we have
    all felt them. I mean, I say something like, it was a walking dance
    which fulfilled something primal for them and though they both
    understood the sexist implications, they didnt care . . . Its dealing
    with the different layers again accepting and integrating them not
    trying to ban certain impulses or desires because we are told to. Is
    it bad or is she inferior because she is turned on by walking behind
    him? I dont know. I dont think so. If she feels free as a woman, then
    I dont see the problem. But I see the potential danger in this
    positionjust as there is potential danger in an EP/essentialist
    position. But Steven Pinker I think does the best job of explaining
    why it doesnt have to be dangerousand in fact, in the long run might
    do more good than harm.

    Q You play with the question of patterns . . . Why?

    A Well, for one, Gurdjieff, the basis for Rajingiev and Guerttiev, was
    interested in habits. And I guess I am too. The book is about these
    women who have recurring patterns in their relationships. And, of
    course, people do throughout their lifespanoften debilitatingly so.
    And I suppose a big question in standard social clinical psychology is
    how do you break these patterns? But Im not only interested in
    patterns as related to psychological processes/neuroses/habits, but
    also to questions of time, e.g. eternal recurrence. Would it all
    really be the same if we played it all back from the beginning? And
    can we change? And do we really have free will? And can we actually
    determine reality or has everything been set and were just living it
    out? The new physics gets at a lot of these issues . . .

    Q Why didnt you use Gurdjieff s name in the book? You use the real
    names of others

    A I didnt because many of the philosophical/spiritual ideas I wrote
    about in Sirens Song and some in Baby Theory are really not the ideas
    of Gurdjieff. Rajingiev and Guerttiev are not pseudonyms for
    Gurdjieff; they are names for a fictional sage. Yet Gurdjieffians will
    certainly recognize some of Gurdjieff in them, thats true.

    Q What does the title mean, Trine Erotic?

    A Well, trine means three . . . and three is important throughout the
    book. Erotic refers to Eros . . . love (though also it has a sexual
    component). But the first meaning of the title is three love stories:
    three loves. (Trine Erotic= Love Stories, Sirens Song, and Baby Theory
    . . . Also Conscious Shock = soft kill, Red Love, and Sirens Song.) In
    addition, there are couplet stories that make a final third story:
    Conscious Shock and Third Force make Trine Erotic; soft kill and Red
    Love make Love Stories; Love Stories and Sirens Song make Conscious
    Shock . . .)

    And there is a feeling that Third Force isnt over and that Trine
    Erotic itself is part of something . . .

    Three-love is also for a sort of triune theory of love I have in the
    book: evolution, experience, culture. The notion that our problems
    stem from the conflict between our different layers. So, for example,
    if I were a man, I might feel an attraction for women who are heavier
    or who have a particular hip-to-waist ratio than what the culture
    tells me is attractive. This conflict of impulses and desires tends to
    clog feelings, or at least makes people feel disjointed. It is hard to
    put it all together. Its hard to know what it is the I really desires;
    what is more true for the self?

    Three is everywhere in TE. Its also a Fibonacci number, and Id say
    just about every number in the book is a Fibonacci number. And trine
    is also an astrological concept, relating to the relationship of

    Q Whats a Fibonacci number?

    A Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician who discovered an interesting
    series of numbers, which are now called Fibonacci numbers. It begins
    with 1. You then add one to that to get 2. You then add those two
    numbers together to get 3. Then 2+3=5; 3+5=8; 5+8=13; 8+13=21 . . .
    and so on . . . Whats interesting about these numbers is that the
    ratio between any of the pairs of numbers is approximately the golden
    ratio or the golden number, which is around 1.618. And whats
    interesting about the golden number is that artists throughout history
    have used it in their art. (The golden mean, the golden section, or
    golden ratio is most beautiful to our eyes.) In addition, what is
    interesting about the actual numbers themselves in the series is that
    they can be found in naturein particular in the spirals of things. So,
    if you count the spirals in a pine cone or the seeds in a sunflower,
    or the spirals of a shell, you will find you get a Fibonacci number. .
    . . 13 rows of spirals, or 21, like that. As well, the human face
    shows a lot of correspondence to Fibonacci numbers and the golden
    ratio. . . . And this is interesting because there is a lot of work
    being done in EP and other fields to suggest that there is a
    correlation between symmetry and what is thought of as beautiful, with
    developmental health and stability, perhaps, even fertility and
    fecundity. And perhaps, somehow, there is a relationship between the
    mathematics of outward beauty and inner.

    Q Why use Fibonacci numbers?

    A I think theres a magical quality to the numbers, no question. They
    seem most natural. Its like choosing between painting your wall a flat
    yellow or painting it yellow with a mixture of white, with a subtle
    Lazure technique, to create a feeling of softness and naturalness,
    what youd find in nature. In addition, mathematics is important
    throughout much of the book. I talk about there being a math to
    everything; about the algorithms of our adapted mind; write about how
    the nameless protagonist adds everything up: Calebs lies, his Heliosen
    ways, his amorality . . .

    Q In the book, you sometimes refer to TE as metafiction. Why?

    A Oh, because its about fictionits a story about a story about a
    story. And because its concerned with ideas about fiction and writing.
    Also, because I go outside of the fiction and interject as the author
    about the work. Its meta in a lot of ways. Im interested in fictionthe
    craft of writing. I see TE as a triptych. Each section, each story has
    a different style. Some stories are crafted more than others, but so
    far, readers have told me they dont see a difference. To me theres a
    huge difference, as far as craft and complexity between some of the
    stories . . .

    Q Which ones?

    A I dont want to say.  I want to get virgin feedback still . . .

    I do want to say this: I dont think of myself as a writerI think of
    myself more as a synthesizera synthesizer of memes. If my writing were
    a singing voice it would be closer to Leonard Cohens than Pavarottisor
    Joan Osbornes than Kathleen Battles. The tradition in fiction is, of
    course, pre-film, and has mostly been concerned with painting mental
    pictures for readers. But Im more interested in representing and
    transmitting ideas than I am pictures. My emphasis is on conveying
    meaning up frontthats where I put my energy. I realize meaning is also
    conveyed subtly, but its just not enough for me. I have more I want to
    convey. And, of course, I also do it in the traditional wayI dont
    think it would be a novel otherwise. Also, thats not to say Im not
    interested in language. I am very much. And I have a pretty good ear,
    so I care very much about the sounds. Sometimes I would spend half an
    hour on one sentence. For example, every sentence fragment is there
    for a reason. I could have chosen instead a semi-colon or a connecting
    word or an em-dash, etc., but for me it was a question of sound and
    meaning and even a visual impression. And of course, sometimes, my
    first writing would be just right and I could leave it alone. That was
    always nice.

    [4]Alice Andrews has taught both writing and psychology (and sometimes
    both at the same time) with an evolutionary lens for over a decade.
    Currently she's teaching "Social Psychology " and "Personality and
    Psychotherapy" at the [5]State University of New York at New Paltz.
    Alice is also an editor and writer (books and magazines), and was the
    associate editor of [6]Chronogram from 2000-2002. She is the author of
    [7]Trine Erotic, a novel which explores evolutionary psychology.


    1. http://www.entelechyjournal.com/
    2. http://www.entelechyjournal.com/meta-seductionfiction.htm
    3. http://www.entelechyjournal.com/books.htm
    4. http://www.entelechyjournal.com/andrews
    5. http://www.newpaltz.edu/
    6. http://www.chronogram.com/

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