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

Alice Andrews aandrews at hvc.rr.com
Thu Jun 16 12:06:48 UTC 2005

First of all, I want to thank you, 
Frank, for appreciating my novel and 
for writing and posting this...I feel 
a lot of support from this list, which 
isn't nothing! Sure it's electronic, 
but it's still real and I feel real 

So, just to correct a few things:
Of course I know about multi-level 
selectionism--how could I not! And I 
think it's good stuff and it makes 
sense to me! I'm a supporter.
In fact, I'll be meeting with David 
Wilson in about 3 weeks (with others) 
to discuss the possibility of a new 
Evolutionary Studies program here at 
New Paltz. Very exciting!

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

Hmm. Let me say this: The novel deals 
with some love themes: passionate love 
v companionate love (what i call 'hot' 
love and 'warm' love) and selfless 
love and selfish love, and also 
romantic soul-mate love, short-term 
mating and long-term mating, among 
other love themes.
It's true that many of the female 
characters "desire" romantic love and 
don't care how they get it or for how 
long, whether it is for 10 years or a 
year. I also think some (if not all) 
the female characters DO desire 
monogamous enduring relationships...As 
well, there is plenty of talk about 
"long-term, monogamous commitment" I 
But anyway, what drives any story is a 
quest/motivation/striving... The 
female characters DO want love.
In fact, if you think about it, 3 out 
of the 4 female characters DO end up 
in long-term, monogamous, committed 

Also, what do you mean when you say 
"desire for a long-term monogamous 
commitment" is missing from EP? I'm 
not sure I understand. Do you mean 
that evolutionary psychologists talk 
too much about short-term mating? I 
think that's the popular culture's 
Just as an interesting example: David 
Buss, in his EP textbook, devotes 58 
pages to male and female long-term 
mating and only 23 pages to male and 
female short-term mating.

Well, again, thank you for supporting 
me, Frank....
All best!!!!
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Premise Checker
  To: paleopsych at paleopsych.org
  Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 3:31 
  Subject: [Paleopsych] Alice Andrews: 
Playing with Myself: Questions for 
myself about my novel, Trine Erotic

  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 
  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 
  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 
  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 
  that there are many of these 
desires. Steven Reiss came up with 16 
  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 
  a quite different kind of love.

  Note to myself: you've got to get 
around to buying and reading C.S. 
  _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, 

  [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 

      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 
      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 
      and more. And it's for females 

      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 
      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 
      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 

      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 
      of mine. Perhaps Im just not 
refined enough or my personality 
      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, 
      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 
      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 

      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 
      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 
      In Sirens Song, the nameless 
protagonist says her father told her 
      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 
      audience. And he says, Ill be 
there. Arent I enough? And Im 
      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 
      of evolution which ensured such 
a tendency persisted?) Or is it
      cultural? Or some admixture? 
Again, I question my premise as well. 
      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 
      (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 
      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 
      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 
      restricted with respect to 
desire and the art within her. I think 
      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 

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

      A Well, first of all, the most 
interesting thing about people is 
      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 
      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 
      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 
      women who have recurring 
patterns in their relationships. And, 
      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 
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 
      three loves. (Trine Erotic= Love 
Stories, Sirens Song, and Baby Theory
      . . . Also Conscious Shock = 
soft kill, Red Love, and Sirens Song.) 
      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 
      tells me is attractive. This 
conflict of impulses and desires tends 
      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 
      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 
      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 
      they can be found in naturein 
particular in the spirals of things. 
      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 
      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. 
      seem most natural. Its like 
choosing between painting your wall a 
      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 
      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 
      story. And because its concerned 
with ideas about fiction and writing.
      Also, because I go outside of 
the fiction and interject as the 
      about the work. Its meta in a 
lot of ways. Im interested in 
      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 
      a singing voice it would be 
closer to Leonard Cohens than 
      Joan Osbornes than Kathleen 
Battles. The tradition in fiction is, 
      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 
      conveyed subtly, but its just 
not enough for me. I have more I want 
      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 
      interested in language. I am 
very much. And I have a pretty good 
      so I care very much about the 
sounds. Sometimes I would spend half 
      hour on one sentence. For 
example, every sentence fragment is 
      for a reason. I could have 
chosen instead a semi-colon or a 
      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, 
      first writing would be just 
right and I could leave it alone. That 
      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 
      associate editor of 
[6]Chronogram from 2000-2002. She is 
the author of
      [7]Trine Erotic, a novel which 
explores evolutionary psychology.


      5. http://www.newpaltz.edu/
      6. http://www.chronogram.com/
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