Monday, January 3, 2022

Black and White Thinking

Anna Shechtman

Lautreamont famously described surrealism "as beautiful as the chance meeting, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” Anna Shechtman’s counterpointing of anorexia and crossword puzzles in a recent New Yorker article (“Black and White Thinking,” 12/27/21) introduces an equally unlikely apposition. Shechtman who was assistant to Will Shortz, the Crossword puzzle editor of The Times publishes her second puzzle in the paper while she's in rehab in Paradise, ha ha (a town in Utah). “The puzzle’s theme was,” she writes, “‘It’s all Greek to me,’ and its answers included  words with Greek letters nested inside them. My inspiration came from the discovery that Freud’s ‘oral phase' contained the Greek letter ‘alpha’; that answer was the puzzle’s 1-Down.” Is the subliminal argument that the creation and/or solution of crossword puzzles involves the kind of primary process thinking and unconscious resolution that occurs in dreams?  Daniel Kahneman you may remember wrote Thinking Fast and Slow and Stephen Pinker recently published Rationality: What it is, Why it Seems Scarce, Why it Matters. Shechtman’s meditations on anorexia obviously lie within the realm of the irrational, but for those who are interested in solutions to either crossword puzzles or pathologies, both reason and the kind of memory consolidation that occurs between the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex will come into play. Every once in a while The New Yorker publishes a seminal essay. Bruno Bettleheim’s Freud and Man’s Soul was one, as was V.S. Naipaul's "The Enigma of Arrival." “Black and White Thinking” is the most recent example of a story that turns one’s head around.

Read "Diasporic Dining: Letting People Know What They're Worth" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "You've Got Me Going in Circles" by The Friends of Distinction

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