I'm always surprised when I read a book and it has some incredible relevance on my life. For example, after a visit from Gloria Steinem to my university and a rather upsetting argument with one of my colleagues, I read Joanna Russ' The Female Man for my class in Reading Postmodernism. It's a tale of four women--who might all be aspects of the same woman--moving through life, discovering and deciding what it means to be female.
The last book for my Postmodernism class has been an Egyptian novel, Being Abbas el Abd. Moving past the (postmodern) fact that it has been translated from Arabic into English, it is a book that I found primarily about fear and mental illness.
I should point out that I read Being Abbas el Abd in my bathtub. No, it was not with a lit candle and a glass of wine, as I might have preferred. Instead, I was hunkered down with pillows and a blanket, riding out three separate tornado warnings for the county. (I decided that if I was going to be spending that much time in the tub, I might as well be comfortable, and there is little as comforting as the heaviness of a quilt.) I have a deep fear of tornadoes, a fear known as lilapsophobia, a word unknown to me until today, a fear stemming from a traumatic childhood experience in a tornado.
Being Abbas el Abd is not necessarily a comforting book when it comes to fear--if you want a book that gives you strength in the face of fear, try Dune instead (fear is the mindkiller). But it does present an accurate picture of the cognitive process of someone with a mental disorder that heightens fear. As someone who has experienced that, I appreciated the depiction. It's something that I think postmodern literature does very well, something I also noticed in Chester's The Exquisite Corpse this semester. The fragmentation in the novels mirrors the fragmentation in the mind, and I cannot help but hope that novels like these will continue to help maintain the acceptance we are starting to exhibit for mental illnesses--both the severe and mild.
In the meantime, you'll have to excuse me. I may be spending the night in the bathtub.