The man who walked away: a novel by Maud Casey.
This novel seemed to urge me to pay attention to its details, while another part of me kept saying, “Come on get on with the story.” Yet I read on, as Casey keeps merging one sentence into another without any sense of direction like Albert as he wonders in his fugue state. For example “Although, these sounds will create a new sound. Albert will listen to the new sound as the nurse leads him down a long hall…and this will become part of the music too.” Casey seems to use words and language to create the interplay between transference and counter transference between patient and doctor, or Albert and those who come in contact with him. Somehow the misery of Albert’s illness, or the hysterical patient under the probing of the Great doctor often gets lost in the beauty of her language…the soft turning of phrase.
In my impatient to want to get on with the plot it was not until about a quarter of way into the book that I started to get her very subtle descriptions of Albert’s public displays and playing with his “Oh! Oh! My beautiful instrument!” Casey never seems to want to go straight at something like calling a spade a spade when she can approach it sideways.
Her description of insane asylums is a little too idealistic from what I have learned about such places at the end of the 19th century, and to quote one NY Times article “Many of private home for the mentally ill in New York have devolved into places of misery and neglect, just like the psychiatric institutions before them.”
I’ve read the novel first so I’m commenting on that. And will read the other assignment before class so I cannot comment on that.
I agree with you, Jeffrey, that the description of the asylum is unrealistic but the author does address this through the nurse’s explanation for her presence at this particular institution. The nurse is only there because it is so different from other places where patients are in shackles, etc. I’m sure it couldn’t have been as nice as described, I just wanted to point out that the author isn’t insinuating that most places would have looked like where Albert landed.
I definitely agree with many issues you have raised in your critical comment. We humans
have this inherent tendency to classify and label things, I guess so the self will feel more secure per se . But most of all we pay a lot of attention to behavior. And we use as point of reference authority with a degree ; psychiatrist , doctor etc.. In our classifications brackets are a must ” dangerous’, ” moderately stable “, “insane” . Albert on the other hand was simply a curious man. He took on adventures of another sort I must say but he did it . He listened to the inner voice and followed it in order to find the gift of astonishment. I used to know someone who would wander off in to the vastness for months . No-one knew where he was. Months later he would reappear , to gather strength for more travels . Of course , the diagnosis was unequivocal-Schizophrenia . However , animals have fugues as well . Years ago my German Shepard would take a refuge from his mundane – doggy life and disappear for weeks on end. Perhaps , all creatures have an innate desire to explore . When external surroundings fail we turn inwards . In a way , a fugue might be simply an act of letting go of the self . Those who posses this kind of courage understand that one cannot truly love or experience anything if one cannot truly let go of one’s self.