Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.
Though excellent fiction has been staged in restaurants (Richard Russo’s Empire Falls comes to mind, as well as YA novel Hope was Here), I have to admit Rebecca Makkai at Ploughshares has a point that dining-in-public scenes are getting a bit old. “All the unfolding of napkins and poking at the French fries… it’s filler.”
“I hadn’t gone back in time, but in a sense Rome had come forward, by insidious and sly degrees, under new names, hidden by the flak talk and phony obscurations, at last into our world again.” Whatever you say, Philip. Was Philip K. Dick a mystic or was he just a madman?