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Those who are creative in Barbara’s world are impaled by the hook and those who trust are removed. For most of us, these problems of creativity and intimacy are the difference between a meaningful and satisfying life as opposed to a life of quiet: desperation. To Barbara, they are matters of staying alive, and this is perhaps as good a way as any to state simply the difference between the meaning of a problem to a normal person and to a schizophrenic. As Barbara admits honestly, her problems are not solved; she cannot claim a complete cure. The hallucinations are gone and her conscious mind can hold down a job; but the hook operators are still, unbearable, and there is no indication that she can trust enough to enjoy human contact.

In fact, she tells little of her feelings about the people who are and were significant in her life. The only interactions we witness (other than in her hallucinatory dramas) are her contacts with a busy, uncaring psychiatrist and with a caricature of an “orthodox” psychoanalyst, who seems alternately amazed at Barbara’s unconscious (understandably so) and intrigued by her femininity (a Frenchman, he suggests bed with an experienced European lover as a cure, an idea that Barbara wisely considers would create, for her, more problems than it would solve). For Barbara, the world remains hostile; survival is the central problem. The only optimistic elements in the story are Barbara’s considerable intelligence and the creative urge which led to her novel and to this book.

Psychology does not know much about creativity. Freud analyzes Dostoevsky as a neurotic, but he admits: “Before the problem of the creative artist analysis must, alas, lay down its arms.” [Sigmund Freud, “Dostoevsky and Parricide,” in Collected Papers. Volume V, London: Hogarth Press, 1950.] In a similar way, one can explain William Blake’s hallucinations and his denunciations of the Royal Academy’s Hook Operators, but the music of Blake’s words, the form of their content, and the fact of creativity, rather than stagnation, remain an awesome mystery. Barbara writes and she writes well; creativity is a therapy by which Barbara transcends the psychiatrists’ work-a-day world of confessions and standardized inkblots. She imposes regularity and form over chaos, socializing the unconscious language in a way only the best therapies ever approach. Yet, as I have said, there is a great distance between bare survival and a satisfying life.

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