Alice Flaherty interviewed

Robert Birnbaum interviews Alice Flaherty, author of The Midnight Disease:

RB: Let’s see: your occupation is to apply to problems, that frequently have not been approached this way, a biomedical model/solution. You are trying to explain a thing that many people want to say is mystical and not a biological issue. Hypergraphia is a condition where someone writes uncontrollably?

AF: Almost. It takes a lot of effort to control. There are degrees. For some people, it is completely uncontrollable.

RB: Specifically about writing? It’s not a generalized condition?

AF: Hypergraphia is. But I think the temporal lobe controls equivalents in other fields. For example, Van Gogh was hypergraphic, but also a hyper-painter. He turned out more canvases than —

RB: One every thirty-six hours?

AF: Yes. Now, we say it was his style —

RB: And in the case of Isaac Asimov, who wrote 477 novels in his life — I’m skipping around, sorry.

AF: I think it’s all related. You could say, maybe he [Asimov] did it for money. But a lot of people would love to do that for money and just can’t. I think he enjoyed — I don’t know too much about his work— he seemed to think it was important, took pleasure in it. And so I do make this distinction between people who do write or paint for internal motives as opposed to people who are doing it just because —

RB: Milan Kundera calls that condition —

AF: He calls it graphomania. He is actually talking about people who do it for fame.

AF: To be heard, for people to read them, and those are probably pretty alike. All of us are guilty of both. If you are truly just hypergraphic, you never bother to get published. It takes a lot of work, and it’s not the same process.

RB: [laughs] Right. Trying to get published is more like robbing a convenience store: a lot of aggression and anti-social behavior.

AF: Yeah. It’s also a way of justifying and proving to others you are not crazy. You may be hypergraphic and say, “Well, if I can turn this into a book, then I have transformed myself from a nut into an author.”

Link via Beatrice.


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