The Creeping Affliction

Originally published on 7 February 2012

So I’m really supposed to be working on my new story (along with cleaning up the chapters that I’ve been reading to all of you) but… well, it’s also been a day or two since I’ve posted, and I really want to keep this thing’s frequency in at least a decent range, if not high. One thing I hate is finding an awesome blog and then realizing that the person hasn’t posted to it for years. I can’t promise that that will never happen… lately, I’ve been receiving threats again from the Humbolt Penguins off the coast of Chile, and I’ve already learned to avoid unmarked white-and-black vans… but as long as it’s in my power to update this thing, I will.

Also, I wanted to talk about The Idiot, by Dostoyevsky. That is one of the two books I’m reading right now, and it’s one that I’d actually read parts of, years and years ago. I have a love-hate relationship with Dostoyevsky (hmm… spell-check keeps flagging that) and it’s still something that I haven’t quite come to terms, though I think my biggest problem with him, back when I first went to college in California, wasn’t so much Crime and Punishment as it was the people who were fans of it. Sorry… I meant Fans. Big capital ‘F.’ They scared me a little bit.

On to The Idiot. You may be wondering what this has to do with creepy fiction (other than that it’s written by a 19th century Russian author). You may be wondering how this fits in with this blog. You may especially be wondering what, exactly, I did, to piss off the penguins. I can’t answer all of those questions, of course, but I can say that, while the big theme in this book is still perhaps the one that you learned (‘how a corrupt society deals with an honest man’) a secondary theme that keeps popping up is ‘mental debilitation is a bitch.’

If you know about Dostoyevsky’s (damn you, spellcheck… I VERIFIED THAT) struggles with epilepsy, depression, and living in Russia, sections where Prince Myshkin is talking about his experiences with epilepsy take on an extra meaning. And I was fine with that. Then I got to Part II, Chapter V, where the Prince is wandering St Petersburg, after a dramatic confrontation with his frenemy Rogojin. Even before he collapsed, I knew something was up, and I felt the skin on the back of my neck start to creep up toward my head. Everything I was reading was suddenly becoming very, painfully familiar.

Here’s an audio link to the page at the excellent Librivox site… go to Part II Chapter V.)

The part that really frightened me, and may frighten you, is that I’ve recently been randomly, irresponsibly thinking that, at a certain level, a lot of  mental disturbances converge near a single point. The bi-polar, suffering from a breakdown, acts much like someone with anxiety disorder, or psychosis, or even certain stops along the Autism Spectrum. It’s a pleasant mental exercise. And then… this. Dostoyevsky (you know what, WordPress spellcheck? Here! Достоевский! Spellcheck that!) describes everything in painful detail; the flash of insight, the pure body-high, the thought that you’re plugged in directly to The Flying Spaghetti Monster and His Noodly Wonderfulness, followed by paranoia, dread, and fear… this is real. Or at least it felt real when I read it.

Happy reading, folks.

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