Selected from the AbeBooks’ Weird Book Room.
A few months ago, the first poetry reading I ever attended in New York came back to haunt me, almost literally. I was folding laundry on a Sunday night, listening to iTunes on shuffle, when a ghostly, familiar voice issued out of my speakers, interrupting the music. Soft, deeply resonant, and a little like Boris Karloff—or more precisely, Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s impersonation of Boris Karloff on “The Monster Mash”:
Samuel Menashe here. On June 19, in the year two thousand and one. In the city of New York, where I was born on September 16, in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-five. I am reading a selection of my poems from a book called The Niche Narrows.”
This time capsule–like announcement introduced a series of poems recorded by Menashe in some hermetic sound booth for the CD New and Selected Poems, released by Rattapallax Press in 2000. And listening to them gave me the most wonderfully uncomfortable feeling I’ve had since—well the last time I’d heard Samuel Menashe read. Which was more than five years ago. Read More
We were saddened to learn of the death of Daryl Hine last week at the age of seventy-six. Over the years, his work appeared with regularity in our pages, and his voice will be greatly missed. The following poem appeared in issue 155.
Time’s one-way traffic won’t reverse
Summer’s sentimental course
Or force the headlong universe
Perversely backwards to its source.
Reverting to the title page
Cannot erase a book once read;
What echo of a golden age
Gilds an eternity of lead?
All the spontaneous happenings
Of the erotic pantomime.
Precipitate, straightforward lovers
Intimate that certain things
Are irreversible as time.
- Seattle band Fleet Foxes is launching an arts and literary journal, The Unified Field. Quoth the L, “Round one features a journal entry penned by recently freed West Memphis 3 member Damien Echols on adjusting to life after eighteen years on death row, an excerpt from Gloria Steinem’s forthcoming book, a photo essay on adolescence by noted rock photographer Autumn de Wilde, a contribution from SPIN’s Charles Aaron, and another from Animal Collective sister/visual collaborator Abby Portner, among 30-plus other pieces.” Proceeds benefit nonprofit 826 National.
- During the sixties, the FBI kept a file on suspected communist sympathizer Ray Bradbury. According to the bureau’s then-source, “some of Bradbury’s stories have been definitely slanted against the United States and its capitalistic form of governmental.”
- Kindles don’t have a soporific effect according to one study: “a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22 percent … Stimulating the human circadian system to this level may affect sleep in those using the devices prior to bedtime.”
- The Marriage Plot hits the small screen.
- Across languages, “the fundamental colour hierarchy, at least in the early stages (black/white, red, yellow/green, blue) remains generally accepted. The problem is that no one could explain why this ordering of colour exists. Why, for example, does the blue of sky and sea, or the green of foliage, not occur as a word before the far less common red?”
I was one of the last to get in on the sexual revolution, letting the other virgins sprint out of the starting gate ahead of me. Though sex wasn’t formally a competitive sport, in the sixties it could feel like a relay race with men and herpes being passed along by Team America. Cosmo girls were encouraged to be players—to experiment, seduce, and manipulate … in no particular order. For seventy-five cents, we got monthly tips on being alluring and adventurous. Our coach was Helen Gurley Brown.
In those early days of Cosmopolitan, we ripped into each new issue to find out “How You Can Become a More Likeable, Secure, and Less Jittery Person … and Change Your Life.” You might think that, having read that, you would never need another self-help article, but Helen Gurley Brown had endless ways of tapping into our self-doubts while simultaneously giving us license to lust. Virtue was no longer a virtue. The shame connected to sex that our mothers had tattooed on our DNA was suddenly spun on its head by a woman who never had a daughter. And maybe that’s why she made so free with recipes to heat up the bedroom, renovating what was done in bed the way Better Homes and Gardens had our bedrooms. We could now have orgasms along with mismatched bedside tables.
Even if we didn’t manage to snag one of the Bachelors of the Month, we might consider other options after reading, say, “The Undiscovered Joys of Having a Chinese Lover,” “Should You be Faithful to Somebody Else’s Husband,” “Buddy-Flirting—the Bold, New Way of Having Him Notice and Like You,” “Foot Fetishes: The Trade Secrets of the Sexiest Ladies in History,” and “When He Wants You to Make the Orgy.” Married women, often overlooked, could learn “How to Get Our Husbands to Love Us Like a Mistress.”
According to every epidemiological study of medical-student mental health ever published, a large percentage of us suffer from, well, something. The discussion sections of these research papers generally propose we educate one another in mental hygiene. They suggest we should practice more “mindful medicine.” And, good students, we oblige. A medical student may not come into med school knowing how to handle a “high-functioning” anxious type in clinic, but the diagnosis doesn’t require an office pamphlet. It’s visible right there in the room.
At my school, we first learn to integrate this understanding of acute and chronic anxiety into clinical practice via the required six-week psychiatry clerkship. Six weeks of immersion in “ICU psychiatry,” the psychiatry faculty argues, is not enough time to master the management of anxiety disorders, but at least it is something. Third-year medical students spend six weeks on one inpatient psychiatry ward as well as several night shifts in a CPEP (Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation Program), the ER for the ill at ease.
In these settings you learn to triage threat and fear until you know from anxiety. There you learn the difference between anxiety and agitation. Panic-attack patients stay in the ER for a while for cardiac and thyroid workups. Anxiety in the CPEP counts as psychosocial stressors, or Axis IV on the DSM-IV: losing your edge, losing your family’s support, your job your benefits, your place to live. Maybe you will have an adjustment disorder on Axis I, or existential anxiety that keeps you off your axis. Agitation is losing your cool, and sometimes losing your hospital gown if you’re especially feisty. For anxiety there is benzos and SSRIs; for agitation, benzos and antipsychotics and sometimes four point restraints. They call the agitation cocktail a 5+2, for 5 milligrams of Haldol and 2 milligrams of Ativan, though I saw one “frequent flyer” get a 10+4.