Friday, September 20, 2013

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth's The Anatomy Lesson, excerpt two)

from The Anatomy Lesson by Philip Roth:

One doctor prescribed a regimen of twelve aspirin per day, another prescribed Butazolidin, another Robaxin, another Percodan, another Valium, another Prednisone; another told him to throw all the pills down the toilet the poisonous Prednisone first, and “learn to live with it.” Untreatable pain of unknown origins is one of the vicissitudes of life—however much it impaired physical movement, it was still wholly compatible with a perfect state of health. Zuckerman was simply a well man who suffered pain. “And I make it a habit,” continued the no-nonsense doctor, “never to treat anybody who isn’t ill. Furthermore,” he advised, “after you leave here, steer clear of psychosomologists. You don’t need any more of that.” “What’s a psychosomologist?” “A baffled little physician. The Freudian personalization of every ache and pain is the crudest weapon to have bequeathed to these guys since the leech pot. If pain were only the expression of something else, it would all be hunky-dory. But unhappily life isn’t organized as logically as that. Pain is in addition to everything else. There are hysterics, of course, who can mime any disease, but they constitute a far more exotic species of chameleon than the psychosomologists lead all you gullible sufferers to believe. You are no such reptile. Case dismissed.”

It was only days after the psychoanalyst had accused him, for the first time, of giving up the fight that Diana, his part-time secretary, took Zuckerman—who was able still to drive in forward gear but could no longer turn his head to back up—took him out in a rent-a-car to the Long Island laboratory where an electronic pain suppressor had just been invented. He’d read an item in the business section of the Sunday Times announcing the laboratory’s acquisition of a patent on the device, and the next morning at nine phoned to arrange an appointment. The director and the chief engineer were in the parking lot to welcome him when he and Diana arrived; they were thrilled that Nathan Zuckerman should be their first “pain patient” and snapped a Polaroid picture of him at the front entrance. The chief engineer explained that he had developed the idea to relieve the director’s wife of sinus headaches. They were very much in the experimental stages, still discovering refinements of technique by which to alleviate the most recalcitrant forms of chronic pain. He got Zuckerman out of his shirt and showed him how to use the machine. After the demonstration session, Zuckerman felt neither better nor worse, but the director assured him that his wife was a new woman and insisted that Zuckerman take a pain suppressor home on approval and keep it for as long as he liked.

Isherwood is a camera with his shutter open, I am the experiment in chronic pain.

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