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?