Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bob Strauss: "I Don't Believe in Coincidence."

Today is Bloomsday. Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on 16 June in Dublin and elsewhere to celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place on the same day in Dublin in 1904. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses. Thursday, 16 June 1904 was the date of Joyce's first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, when they walked to the Dublin urban village of Ringsend.  The entire book is "planned on the model of a walk" through Dublin and its environs.

Coincidentally, Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg takes place on 21 June, the summer solstice -- also the name day of St. John.

My book Significant Moments includes a section that features several quotes from Joyce's novel Ulysses as well as an extended quote from Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger. That section of Significant Moments comprises a fictional letter written by Sigmund Freud to his friend, Wilhelm Fliess (reproduced below). I suppose that it is not simply coincidence that that section of my book, which focuses on the high tide of the friendship between Freud and Fliess, quotes from works inspired by the summer solstice.

Another section of my book that discusses the friendship between Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche features the quote: "No clouds shaded those early bewitching and refreshing days at the lake, where Nietzsche, submissively lost in adoration, passed golden hours stolen from his professorial duties at Basel." Once again suggestions of a brightly shining sun accompany a discussion of a passionate friendship between two men.

Further evidence of the significance of symbolism relating to the sun in Significant Moments emerges in another section of the book that equates a sunless state with the absence of a father-son relationship:

"All I wanted was my father's blessing."
Peter Blos, Son and Father: Before and Beyond the Oedipus Complex.
His need for that approval was obviously "an innate, irrefutable feeling" that lasted to the end of his life.
Philip Rahv, Introduction to Selected Stories of Franz Kafka.
His relationship with his father, a relationship that was expressed, like man’s relationship with God, mostly by its absence, was, after all, the great sunless center of his being.
Rich Cohen, Lake Effect.
"I loved my father—I know that. What I did not know was that I also hated him—even worse: I despised him. When I despised him, it felt like God had come apart. I wanted my father to worship me, come down on his knees. Oh, 'love' and 'hate' is just speaking in the broadest terms. There is more. What? The wish to conquer him. . . ."
Peter Blos, Son and Father: Before and Beyond the Oedipus Complex.

The Ulysses/Die Meistersinger section of Significant Moments reads:

I got your last letter to me and thank you very much for it.
James Joyce, Ulysses.
Recently, . . .
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
William,
James Joyce, Ulysses. 
. . . the Meistersinger afforded me a strange pleasure. A parallel between [my friend and protector Josef] Breuer and H. Sachs is forced upon me by the circumstance that he too was in the theater.  I was sympathetically moved by the "morning dream interpretation melody ..."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNW1O8sYXpo
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
. . . which bears out what . . .
Richard Ellmann, Preface to James Joyce, Ulysses.
... I myself . . .
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.
. . . have said more abstractly.
Richard Ellmann, Preface to James Joyce, Ulysses.
Moreover, as in no other opera, real ideas are set to music, with the tones of feeling attached to it lingering on as one reflects upon them.
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
— Ah, listen to this for God' sake, . . .
James Joyce, Ulysses.
WALTHER:
I had a wonderfully beautiful dream.

SACHS:
That bodes well ! Tell it to me!

WALTHER:
I scarcely dare even to think of it:
I fear to see it vanish from me.

SACHS:
My friend, it is precisely the poet's task
to interpret and record his dreamings.
Believe me, man's truest madness
is disclosed to him in dreams:
all poetry and versification
is nothing but true dream interpretation.
Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
This is . . .
Carl Gustav Jung, The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious.
. . . my dream theory . . .
Sigmund Freud, The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement.
... in unadorned, primitive concreteness of vision.
Carl Gustav Jung, The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious.
Odd, don't you think?
Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago.
There is of course no need to return . . .
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
. . . the galleypage . . .
James Joyce, Ulysses.
... I am sending to you. Since you did not take exception to anything in Chapter 1 . . .
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
... of my dream book . . .
Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Story Girl: A Compound Letter.
... I can unhesitantly sign off to . . .
Edward Jay Epstein, Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald.
. . . the first batch of quirefolded papers.
James Joyce, Ulysses.
Nothing else has yet been set in type. You shall receive the proofs as soon as they arrive and the new parts will be marked in them. — I have inserted a large number of new dreams, which I hope you will not delete.
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
Have you got that?
James Joyce, Ulysses.
The whole thing is planned on the model of an imaginary walk. At the beginning, the dark forest of authors (who do not see the trees), hopelessly lost on wrong tracks. Then a concealed pass through which I lead the reader — my specimen dream with its peculiarities, details, indiscretions, bad jokes — and then suddenly the high ground and the view and the question: which way do you wish to go now?
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
What do you think?
Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago.
Forgive me if I seem to boast.
Robert Frost, Excerpt from An Unstamped Letter in Our Rural Letter Box.
Today, on a superb Sunday marred only by leaden tiredness, . . .
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
. . . the necessity of repose, obviating movement:
James Joyce, Ulysses.
I am very sedentary.
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
Proof fever.
James Joyce, Ulysses.
But on the next rainy day I shall tramp on foot to my beloved Salzburg, where I actually unearthed a few Egyptian antiquities last time. These things put me in a good mood and speak of distant times and countries ...
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
. . . of his and Osiris, of Horus and Amon Ra.
James Joyce, Ulysses.
With the most cordial greetings and thanks for your cooperation in . . .
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.
. . . what I jocularly call . . .
Dale Vander Veen, Dale's April Devotions.
. . . the Egyptian dream book
The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhehn Fliess, 1887-1904.

You will note, incidentally, that internal consistency of imagery is probably something that is lacking in the writings of someone with schizophrenia.  I have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  I suppose the internal consistency of my writings is just one more odd feature of the rare form of the disorder that I suffer from: asymptomatic paranoid schizophrenia.  Do you think David Fram, M.D. and the D.C. Medical Board are familiar with asymptomatic paranoid schizophrenia?

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

At the breakfast meeting with Bob Strauss held at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld on Thursday April 6, 1989 Bob Strauss told the assembled legal assistants: "I don't believe in coincidence."

I don't believe in coincidence either, Mr. Strauss, but in me it's called paranoid schizophrenia.