In a total coincidence, I picked up David Lodge's novel THERAPY the other day and started reading it. I'd enjoyed one of his others, either SMALL WORLD or CHANGING PLACES-- the one about academics at each other's throats in which one of the characters wears a single black silk glove to create an air of mystery. His books are comedies, more or less, but with melancholic underpinnings.

THERAPY is about an English sitcom writer who's having an existential midlife crisis. He's almost bald and nicknamed Tubby for good reason, but that's not why. He's rich, successful, has successful adult children, and a great sex life with his wife of thirty years. But he's miserable. He has a pain in his knee which is clearly psychosomatic and suffers from depression and insomnia, and a crisis looms on the sitcom front.

He's tried everything to deal with his mysterious pains: psychotherapy, surgery, aromatherapy, acupuncture, a new car, a "platonic mistress"-- but nothing helps, though reading Kirkegaard becomes an obsession. There's a big surprise at the one third mark, after which we get other people's points of view. Then another surprise, this one quite clever, at the two-thirds mark when it returns to Tubby's.

The first third is a funny and sharply observed portrait of a decent, intelligent man trying to understand how his life fell apart. The second third is still funny, but the characters become caricatures and the humor switches to satirical jabs at people with lifestyles the author disapproves of. The third third pushed all my buttons in exactly the wrong way. Tubby meets a horrible, shallow Hollywood bitch who takes Prozac as part of her pill-popping lifestyle. In desperation, he asks his therapist if he should try it. Here's what she says:

"'These new SRI (sic) drugs change people's personalities. They act on the mind like plastic surgery acts on the body. Prozac may give you back your self-esteem, but it won't be the same self.'"

Nothing in the book contradicts this view, and the depiction of the Prozac-popper confirms it, so I take this as the view of the author. It's exactly that sort of statement, which several well-meaning people told me in person and which I read in books and articles as well, which made me consider suicide as a better alternative to taking medication. I don't think it gives away too much to say that the solution to Tubby's physical and emotional pain is a spiritual, even religious one, and one attained without resorting to those nasty mind-altering drugs.

The message, as I see it, is that talk therapy is useless and drugs are morally and spiritually wrong. Depression is not a physical illness but an existential state, and one which can only be lifted by hard work, intellectual rigor, spiritual grace, and the love of a good woman.

I can see why Lodge didn't want Tubby to be able to resolve his problems via medicine and why he thought it would seem odd if he never tried, but I wish he could have had Tubby try an SSRI and not be able to stand the side effects or not have it seem to work, get discouraged, and give up. That would have been in character and not sent a message that, in my opinion, is factually incorrect and potentially dangerous.

There was an interesting bit in the first part where Tubby looks up the word angst.

"1. An acute but unspecific sense of anxiety or remorse. 2. (In Existentialist philosophy) the dread caused by man's awareness that his future is not determined, but must be freely chosen."

So angst does not mean "suffering with a known cause, like a past tragedy," and we've all been using it wrong. By definition 1 none of the characters in X have angst. But definition 2 is possible. Or not.

X: DVDs 3 and 4.

The Dragons of Heaven want to preserve Earth in all its horrors and glories. The Dragons of Earth, those terrifying idealists, want to raze it and start anew.

Can anyone defy destiny? Is everything that doesn't have to do with a choice of Kamui's pre-ordained? And how will Kamui ever be able to bear to wield his spirit sword now that he's seen (ick) where they come from?

The Dragons of Heaven have assembled: a schoolgirl with a magic sword and the weight of the world heavy on her shoulders, a young monk with an eye for sensual pleasures and absolutely terrific attitude about his foretold doom, a bouncy girl with a lonely past and her inseparable companion, the spirit dog Inuki, a red-headed fire-throwing hooker (or hostess, or something that requires her to dress in a corset), a sad-eyed young man with a tragic past and a white coat, and a punctilious editor and family man.

The Dragons of Earth only have four members. They're lagging.

This is the half-way mark. Much of the past two volumes has been concerned with telling somewhat self-contained stories of the pasts of some of the characters on both sides. They have all been good and usually touching stories which work on their own and also illuminate the characters in the present. Kamui's episode actually made me kind of like him. (A miracle!)

The pace has been more meditative than at the start, but by the end of the last episode on disc 4 all hell broke loose. Everyone's assembled; let the apocalypse begin.

I cannot rave enough about the look of this show. It's exquisite. The episode focusing on a silent man in a white coat as he battles illusions in empty, rainy Kamakura is simply one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen in animation. The character designs are unique and attractive. (I can't believe how many gorgeous men--all different types of gorgeous men, and each one well-characterized-- can fit into one show.)

I like the plot, but I love the characters-- so noble, so likable, so doomed.
In a total coincidence, I picked up David Lodge's novel THERAPY the other day and started reading it. I'd enjoyed one of his others, either SMALL WORLD or CHANGING PLACES-- the one about academics at each other's throats in which one of the characters wears a single black silk glove to create an air of mystery. His books are comedies, more or less, but with melancholic underpinnings.

THERAPY is about an English sitcom writer who's having an existential midlife crisis. He's almost bald and nicknamed Tubby for good reason, but that's not why. He's rich, successful, has successful adult children, and a great sex life with his wife of thirty years. But he's miserable. He has a pain in his knee which is clearly psychosomatic and suffers from depression and insomnia, and a crisis looms on the sitcom front.

He's tried everything to deal with his mysterious pains: psychotherapy, surgery, aromatherapy, acupuncture, a new car, a "platonic mistress"-- but nothing helps, though reading Kirkegaard becomes an obsession. There's a big surprise at the one third mark, after which we get other people's points of view. Then another surprise, this one quite clever, at the two-thirds mark when it returns to Tubby's.

The first third is a funny and sharply observed portrait of a decent, intelligent man trying to understand how his life fell apart. The second third is still funny, but the characters become caricatures and the humor switches to satirical jabs at people with lifestyles the author disapproves of. The third third pushed all my buttons in exactly the wrong way. Tubby meets a horrible, shallow Hollywood bitch who takes Prozac as part of her pill-popping lifestyle. In desperation, he asks his therapist if he should try it. Here's what she says:

"'These new SRI (sic) drugs change people's personalities. They act on the mind like plastic surgery acts on the body. Prozac may give you back your self-esteem, but it won't be the same self.'"

Nothing in the book contradicts this view, and the depiction of the Prozac-popper confirms it, so I take this as the view of the author. It's exactly that sort of statement, which several well-meaning people told me in person and which I read in books and articles as well, which made me consider suicide as a better alternative to taking medication. I don't think it gives away too much to say that the solution to Tubby's physical and emotional pain is a spiritual, even religious one, and one attained without resorting to those nasty mind-altering drugs.

The message, as I see it, is that talk therapy is useless and drugs are morally and spiritually wrong. Depression is not a physical illness but an existential state, and one which can only be lifted by hard work, intellectual rigor, spiritual grace, and the love of a good woman.

I can see why Lodge didn't want Tubby to be able to resolve his problems via medicine and why he thought it would seem odd if he never tried, but I wish he could have had Tubby try an SSRI and not be able to stand the side effects or not have it seem to work, get discouraged, and give up. That would have been in character and not sent a message that, in my opinion, is factually incorrect and potentially dangerous.

There was an interesting bit in the first part where Tubby looks up the word angst.

"1. An acute but unspecific sense of anxiety or remorse. 2. (In Existentialist philosophy) the dread caused by man's awareness that his future is not determined, but must be freely chosen."

So angst does not mean "suffering with a known cause, like a past tragedy," and we've all been using it wrong. By definition 1 none of the characters in X have angst. But definition 2 is possible. Or not.

X: DVDs 3 and 4.

The Dragons of Heaven want to preserve Earth in all its horrors and glories. The Dragons of Earth, those terrifying idealists, want to raze it and start anew.

Can anyone defy destiny? Is everything that doesn't have to do with a choice of Kamui's pre-ordained? And how will Kamui ever be able to bear to wield his spirit sword now that he's seen (ick) where they come from?

The Dragons of Heaven have assembled: a schoolgirl with a magic sword and the weight of the world heavy on her shoulders, a young monk with an eye for sensual pleasures and absolutely terrific attitude about his foretold doom, a bouncy girl with a lonely past and her inseparable companion, the spirit dog Inuki, a red-headed fire-throwing hooker (or hostess, or something that requires her to dress in a corset), a sad-eyed young man with a tragic past and a white coat, and a punctilious editor and family man.

The Dragons of Earth only have four members. They're lagging.

This is the half-way mark. Much of the past two volumes has been concerned with telling somewhat self-contained stories of the pasts of some of the characters on both sides. They have all been good and usually touching stories which work on their own and also illuminate the characters in the present. Kamui's episode actually made me kind of like him. (A miracle!)

The pace has been more meditative than at the start, but by the end of the last episode on disc 4 all hell broke loose. Everyone's assembled; let the apocalypse begin.

I cannot rave enough about the look of this show. It's exquisite. The episode focusing on a silent man in a white coat as he battles illusions in empty, rainy Kamakura is simply one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen in animation. The character designs are unique and attractive. (I can't believe how many gorgeous men--all different types of gorgeous men, and each one well-characterized-- can fit into one show.)

I like the plot, but I love the characters-- so noble, so likable, so doomed.
.

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