My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
Because in these books [Rachel Cusk] is very specifically exploiting the public conversations of men, which they consider genial and beneficent, but which women very often consider a burden or an intrusion. It is an inversion of that public spectacle: a man bending a woman’s ear. She bends the ear now, on the page. In fact the talkingness of men is something I have always counted on; I love it as perhaps only someone raised Catholic can love it. Men are helpless in the face of female listening. If you sit for it, as for a portrait, they will tell you anything. There is a price for these encounters, though.BACK TO TOP