Remember how you can't tickle yourself? As a young child, you learn how to separate your body from others through this phenomenon. Suddenly, you become yourself, and others become others. "[S]uch a mechanism may be at the foundation of a sense of identity and a first step toward the evolution of personhood and the neurological computation of its boundaries," writes Provine. He goes even further, saying that this response may be even more powerful than sexuality: "Solo tickle is even emptier than solo sex -- you can masturbate to climax but you cannot tickle yourself."
We are entering a period in which the very idea of literature may come to seem a luxury, a distraction from political struggle. But the opposite is true: No matter how irrelevant hardheaded people may believe it to be, literature continually proves itself a sensitive instrument, a leading indicator of changes that will manifest themselves in society and culture. Today as always, the imagination is our best guide to what reality has in store.
The first feeling to arrive while reading Emily Gould’s essay on publishing’s gendered niceness problem was mortified panic. It was followed my many more feelings, but the mortified panic lingered throughout, accompanying other fears made more real by seeing them confirmed in writing by another woman my age in the same industry. I bristled at some points and nodded my head with the entire top half of my body at others, but the one that nagged at me most wasn’t found in the essay itself but in its sub-hed: “Baking cookies is just part of playing the game.” Amid Gould’s thorough and thoughtful critique of the expectations placed on women in publishing, I was stuck on the thought that I had missed the memo on bringing cookies to my readings to render myself more likable than my prose and wit could do alone. As I read on, however, I discovered a still greater horror: even in the absence of snacks, I still exhibit the telltale characteristics of someone who is nice.
So why would we ever need another biography of Freud?
Precisely for the reason that Roudinesco wrote this brilliant new book: because Sigmund Freud, declared dead more times than anyone can count, is nevertheless very much alive. And despite the vast profusion of materials by and about him, or perhaps as a consequence of them, "we have great difficulty knowing who Freud really was, so thoroughly have the commentaries, fantasies, legends, and rumors masked the reality of this thinker, in his time and in ours." The need is even more acute now that the Sigmund Freud Archive at the Library of Congress—with reams of correspondence, family documents, patients' files, notebooks, photographs, school records, interviews, etc.—has finally, after almost 70 years of continuous collection, been opened fully to researchers.