I was going to post a review of Adam Phillips’ “Going Sane” which examines the rather less interesting pole of the mad/sane dichotomy but that should probably wait until I’ve actually made enough progress with it to have an informed opinion. It’s all very well my telling you my initial impressions and what other people think but it makes more sense to think through my own thoughts first.
Having said that of course, I will make some initial observations here anyway. I like the line: “the sane don’t get any memorable lines” and it’s a nice touch to start with Hamlet, Shakespeare’s most famous ‘mad’ character. However, another initial thought is that this is not a book to read in bed on a cold night when it is late and you are tired and you have your feet on a deliciously warm microwaved happy hugger. Perhaps it’s taking me a while to warm up to the subject matter, as interested as I am, and to get my head around what exactly is sanity and what is madness. As Phillips observes, the two intersect and intermingle in confusing ways. Sanity can sometimes be a form of madness and madness an expression of a ‘true self’ and thus a form of sanity.
Commenting on the use of the word “mad” in Hamlet, Phillips says: “Madness … tends to be theatrical, even when it is not good theatre. Sanity tends the other way. Being mad, as Polonius suggests, can mean acting as if one were mad; being sane cannot mean acting as if one were sane.”
I can see that I will be grappling with a lot of paradoxes in this book. And, while I’m in a quoting mood, this is a helpful take on Phillips’ book from Gideon Lewis-Kraus:
“The problem is our tendency to romanticize madness. The mad “have traditionally been idealised, if not glamorised, as inspired: as being in touch … with powers and forces and voices” otherwise reclusive. Sanity, on the other hand, is described — when it is described at all — as a matter of moderation, self-control and mechanical rationality. It’s easy to absorb the lesson that the mad are idiosyncratic and complex while the sane are pedestrian.”
On a completely different topic, you will be pleased to hear that my dog is recovering well from her traumatic dog-bite the other day. Here she is warming herself in front of the gas-heater. I like the crossed-paws and the look of contentment that she has (although she’s not crazy about pictures).
Otherwise, I’m making slow progress with the Belgians and I also went on a date today. We met for coffee at a restaurant called “Jamaican me crazy” which has a nice ring about it. I thought things were going well enough until it came to say goodbye and she got into her extremely cool C-class Mercedez and I got into my very modest Toyota Tazz. There were some signs before this that we were not exactly on the same page but this perhaps brought it home to me in a particularly tangible way. We did, however, have a good chat about martial arts, the merits of surgery over general medicine as a career (and the public’s image of surgeons as arrogant and macho). I doubt if there will be a date number two but it was an entertaining chat.
Next time I’ll write some more about sanity and madness. Happy reading.