It’s so hard, Batman!

Lately, several people have indicated to me that they would like to read my forthcoming book, A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!, but they are worried it will be too difficult to understand. With its publication imminent, it feels like a good time to address this concern. Some theorists have held that literary works are really about how to read them. Since much of my book is about difficulties in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding, it may have some help give with how to approach it.

This meme, which will be the subject of a long commentary in volume I, is about free association in psychoanalysis. One way to read the book is to think of it as an extended exercise in free association on the part of its author. How does, or should, an analyst listen to a patient’s free association? Freud recommended an evenly-suspended attention. More radically, Bion suggested the analyst should be present “without memory or desire.” These descriptions suggest a lightness and immediacy in relation to the text, not getting snagged on things one doesn’t understand, letting go of preconceptions about what our response ought to be. The reader just needs to open herself to the text as it reaches her. More recent trends in psychoanalytic listening emphasize the role of the analyst’s own fantasies in response to the patient’s words. In this vein, my book can be approached as a stimulus to the reader’s own associations, the reader and the text creating a unique, third thing between them.

Another meme, sadly not included in volume I, alludes to the words of the seventeenth-century polymath Sir Thomas Browne. Browne’s sensibility is captured by the image of the cabinet of curiosities and this, in turn, suggests a different way of accessing the book. The reader may simply stroll through the collection of weird exhibits, passing quickly by those that do not hold her interest but lingering over those that do. Not every commentary will catch everyone’s interest. None may be universally interesting. But I hope, and believe, that in the eccentric collection of so many oddities that is my book, everyone will be able to find something or some things to interest her.

A final way of approaching the book is suggested by this meme, which will be in volume I and the commentary on which will explicitly touch on these issues. “Listen to my words!” Trust the author to take care of you and follow along with him, in a relaxed frame of mind, just taking the text at face value. As I explained in another post, I have been frequently praised for my clarity of expression. Where topics are potentially hard to grasp, I have done my best to make them clear. Although I will certainly fail in this at times, don’t let anxiety get in your way and you may find things easier to understand than you were worried they would be.

So, there are three different ways of reading the book. Of course, they can be picked up and discarded at will for different parts of the book. You don’t get to choose just once. But above everything, have fun with it! That’s what it’s there for!

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