Madwomen in the Attic, Madmen in the Garage

Dearest Carla Fran,

I can’t help wondering if the “sensual pleasures” the ladies received as a result of their chocolate and eggs are the subject of the “grateful confidences” that gratify the Professor’s ears. It puts me in mind of the “traditional” cures for female hysteria in the 19th century, and the peculiar forms therapy took to cure the problem of the wandering womb in those days. (And these, I suppose—remember Peggy’s weight-loss Rejuvenator on Mad Men, which gives you that “flush and glow?”)

I’ve got more to say later about therapy then and now. But for now, here’s a question, spurred by the discussions everywhere of DFW’s death and whether or not one can read anything biographical into his corpus of psychotics, addicts, and sociopaths: if schizophrenia means madness, and the hysterics were the madwomen in the attic, are schizophrenics the madmen in the garage? Has “schizophrenia” become, not just a catch-all concept for mental illness, but a more nebulous, even poetic certification of unfitness for society? In Firecracker parlance specifically, is the schizophrenic the official figure of alienation and off-kilter genius, the Fool, the visionary truth-teller, the creature who’s ascended (or descended) a stage towards Hegel’s concrete reality and gets the joke the rest of us didn’t even hear?

And why does this prophetic dimension seem to strike down male Firecrackers in much higher numbers? And—I ask this with fear and trembling, and wish, again, that David Foster Wallace could answer—what’s their yellow wallpaper?


In Which Girls Shimmy and Heathers use a Different Kind of Toilet

Dear Carla Fran,

I am a belly-dancer. I may gyrate twitchily, my Arab wave might evoke a traffic cop at a busy intersection, and my knees are a mess by the end of it all, but by gum, I’m owning it. Our mutual friend had extolled the womanly virtues of the dance, and she wasn’t kidding. The spectacle of twenty-some women gyrating together was so lovely and sinuous that I kept forgetting to do my chest circles. The costumes! The drapy Jasmine-style Aladdin pants! The midriffs, all ripply and tattooed and undulating! It put me in mind of the bathhouse; there’s something so sharply elegant about real shapes moving unashamedly, the way they’re meant to. And then there’s the delicious contrast between the sharp crisp hip thrusts of a shimmy and the jiggling that follows–that’s MEANT to follow, that is neither an embarrassment nor a reason to go to the gym, but a deliberate and choreographed aftershock.

Ah, the acid slightly intestinal fragrance of dishwater. I feel for you poor nose. I’ve taken to wearing gloves because I can’t stand that smell–as definite and recognizable as garbage or vomit or fart. No matter what’s in the garbage or the sink, the smell is so deadly and so consistent. We could bottle it. We could call it Organic Chrism–eau de toilette–and package it in red, yellow and blue bottles (depending on the detergent used in preparation). We could hire Heathers impersonators and have the appropriate 80s-color-coded Heather promote each varietal. “What’s your damage?” would be the ad campaign. Finally, we’d release the eau de parfum: the Veronica–more musky, less citrus, with barf accents replaced by bass notes of Drain-0 and milk. Our ad-line? “Want Big Fun?”

And this brings us to Mad Men, which I’m dying to hear your thoughts on. One more thing re: smells: Have you tried rubbing a lemon on your hands after? It helps! And if you squeeze it out onto a tomato with some olive oil and salt, it’s not even wasted.

I’m running off to read Gwendolyn Brooks’ thoughts on Dickinson, since I have to teach the latter this afternoon. That is all for now. Farewell, my lovely.


The Thrill of the Hair

Dearest Carla Fran,

It’s so funny that you mention Joan, as I optically grope Ms. Holloway every time she’s onscreen myself–did so last night, in fact, when I watched Episode 1 of Season 2 on Hulu. (The photocopier!! And Don Draper has ED! This show just gets better.)

Sadly, my lissome redhead in no way resembles JH. She is a dimply beanpole. I realize that “spectacularly proportioned” might have conveyed a different impression, but in this case the spectacle is height–legs that go on forever, waist the size of my thigh, etc. She’s all fashionable angles without the teensiest bit of meat.

I’m enthralled with your synopsis of The Thrill of it All starring Ms. Day and her character’s upstart pretensions. The storyline reminds me a little of Betty’s attempt to reenter the modeling world on Season 1 of Mad Men. (Speaking of which, can hulu be an alternative to our Netflix Browse Instant column, which I’m strongly in favor of?)

Just thinking of a foam-filled room is making this sweltering day a little more bearable.

Why don’t we stay retro a little longer?

That’s my cousin during her vacation in Cadiz. Everything about this look makes me sigh a little.

Here, in contrast, I’ve had two people ask me–in bars–“So, you’ve decided on the long hair, huh?” I’ve never really regarded growing hair as a decision. I regard haircuts as decisions. But suddenly my hair has crossed some threshold, and people I haven’t seen in a month or two are reacting as if I returned to campus with a buzz cut. Perplexing.

I love Doris Day’s hair. However, not being a blonde, I would settle for straight straight and shiny shiny.

It’s a delight to hear from you every day, dear CF. That is all.