Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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November 30, 2007
textual flogging

Masochism is a topic that indeed never goes out of style.

Here is a joke about masochism. It comes from a book review exerpt quoted by the wonderfully named larvatus prodeo blog:

When I was writing a review of Alban Berg's correspondence, I remarked to an elderly and very distinguished psychoanalyst that I was surprised by how many of Schoenberg's students seemed to enjoy being so badly treated and humiliated by him.

She replied, "I have no time to explain this just now, but I can assure you that there are a great many masochists and not nearly enough sadists to go around."

Larvatus sources the entirety of the above snippet to a 1996 book review in the NYRB by the great Charles Rosen.

Funnily enough, the (more than) funny-enough joke reappeared in the NYRB again, this past summer, in a review by Michael Kimmelman:

Maybe on some level Kirstein was also drawn to what he often called Balanchine's "sadism."

I know of a woman, a psychoanalyst, who used to say that the world is full of masochists and there aren't nearly enough sadists to go around.

Kimmelman was reviewing the new biography of Lincoln Kirstein.

I wonder if Rosen and Kimmelman heard the joke from the same friend?

If so, I wonder who she was. Neither reviewer identifies her. I wonder what other insightful and funny things she may have said or written.

One somehow doubts that their friend is still around anymore, whoever she was. Rosen wrote that she was "elderly" at the time when he reviewed an unnamed volume of Berg correspondence. The most recent volume of Berg correspondence seems to have been published at least 20 years ago.
[Though a volume by Constantin Floros of and about an almost infinitely fascinating subset of Berg's correspondence looks like it's coming out soon.]

In any event, their friend sounds like she was very wise and something of a hoot.

I looked at the Kimmelman review for the first time just last week, even though it was published in June, so towering is my backlog of woefully neglected reading material.

It is tempting to reframe the problem of that reading backlog, in the spirit of the abovementioned joke, as follows:

The problem is not that the things to read are too many, the problem is that my eyes are too few.

    except that such a formulation would get the terms of the Aristotelian-style analogy wrong, and precisely backwards.

In fact, the correct terms and order are more like this:

TiR : reading material :: Severin von Kusiemski : Wanda von Dunajew

or better yet:

TiR : reading material :: Severin, Severin : whiplash girlchild in the night