05 July 2007

Passage to Insanity/Suicide

I recently encountered a novel by Sergio Troncoso, published by Northwestern University Press a few years back (2003) with the portentious title, "The Nature of Truth."

I enjoyed this passage, and thought I'd share it with you.

"Helmut had once dated a younger student from Karlsruhe, Stephanie Henke, a special girl. At a concert, she had been so taken by Beethoven's allegro assai conclusion to the Ninth Symphony that she cried and shrieked nonstop into the deathly silence at the end of the concert. An incredible orgasmic fury! What was even more shocking was that those around her, the prim and proper of Freiberg, approved of this primaeval release with their admiring looks. Apparently this wild girl had really understood the heart of the music. Little did they notice the desperate gleam in her eyes, the spasmodic little twists of her head processing in a rapid-fire loop, the slash scars on her wrists."

That's a very nicely written paragraph. Troncoso withholds from us the most obvious evidence that something was really, perhaps tragically, wrong with Stephanie. We're seduced into sharing the attitude of the prim and proper of Freiberg, because after all maybe a shriek is the best response to Beethoven.

Even when the last sentence of the passage is underway, destined as it is to disillusion us, it begins in a way that lets us cling to the Stephanie-is-okay view. There is a "desperate gleam in her eyes." So? That seems an inherently subjective datum.

Then, though, "spasmodic little twists," -- now THAT sounds pathological. Finally, the "slash scars on her wrists." Once we get that datum, we look back and re-interpret earlier expressions, including the adjective "special" assigned to her in the final clause of the first sentence.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.