"The neurologist was not suggesting that migraines were necessarily symptomatic of a neurotic personality disturbance; rather he was responding, he said, to what he took to be 'a Freudian orientation' in the questions I asked him and in the manner in which I had gone about presenting the history of the disorder.
"I did not know that it was a Freudian orientation so much as a literary habit of mind which the neurologist was not accustomed to: that is to say, I could not resist reflecting upon my migraines in the same supramedical way that I might consider the illnesses of Milly Theale or Hans Castorp or the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, or ruminate upon the transformation of Gregor Samsa into a cockroach, or search out the 'meaning' in Gogol's short story of Collegiate Assessor Kovalev's temporary loss of his nose. Whereas an ordinary man might complain, 'I get these damn headaches' (and have been content to leave it at that), I tended, like a student of high literature or a savage who paints his body blue, to see the migraines as standing for something, as a disclosure or 'epiphany,' isolated or accidental or inexplicable only to one who was blind to the design of a life or a book. What did my migraines signify?"
— Philip Roth, My Life as a Man
"Yes, almost nothing is necessary to set me in pursuit of a perfect stranger, nothing, say, but the knowledge that while taking notes from the encyclopedia with her right hand, she cannot keep the index finger of her left hand from tracing circles on her lips. I refuse — out of an incapacity that I elevate to a principle — to resist whatever I find irresistible, regardless of how unsubstantial and quirky, or childish and perverse, the source of the appeal might strike anyone else. Of course this leads me to seek out girls I might otherwise find commonplace or silly or dull, but I for one am convinced that dullness isn't their whole story, and that because my desire is desire, it is not to be belittled or despised.
" 'Please,' they plead, 'why don't you just talk and be nice? You can be so nice, if you want to be.' 'Yes, so they tell me.' 'But don't you see, this is only my body. I don't want to relate to you on that level.' 'You're out of luck. Nothing can be done about it. Your body is sensational.' 'Oh, don't start saying that again.' 'Your ass is sensational.' 'Please don't be crude. You don't talk that way in class. I love listening to you, but not when you insult me like this.' 'Insult? It's high praise. Your ass is marvelous. It's perfect. You should be thrilled to have it.' 'It's only what I sit on, David.' 'The hell it is. Ask a girl who doesn't own one quite that shape if she'd like to swap. That should bring you to your senses.' 'Please stop making fun of me and being sarcastic. Please.' 'I'm not making fun of you. I'm taking you as seriously as anybody has ever taken you in your life. Your ass is a masterpiece.' "
— Philip Roth, The Professor of Desire
Previous pieces on Chaplin at Cinemasparagus: