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In the Floyd Archives: A Psycho-Bestiary

Sarah Boxer

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ISBN 10: 0375714421 / ISBN 13: 9780375714429
Published by Pantheon, 2001
New Condition: NEW Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: In the Floyd Archives: A Psycho-Bestiary

Publisher: Pantheon

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: NEW

About this title


Sarah Boxer’s charming first book is a series of cartoon case histories, an animal tour of all things Freudian. The tale begins when Mr. Bunnyman runs into Dr. Floyd’s office to hide from a wolf that is chasing him, and Floyd, a classic pipe-smoking analyst, insists that Bunnyman’s problem is psychological—that he is not actually being chased but is having paranoid fantasies. Enter Dr. Floyd’s next patient, Mr. Wolfman, a swaggering cross-dresser with a hysterical female alter ego called Lambskin (who soon insists on being treated by Floyd, too). Ratma’am rounds out the Floydian client list: she’s an obsessive-compulsive pack rat who likes giving orders and being spanked.

Drawn with a whimsical hand and complete with notes about the Freudian sources to which these archives pay affectionate tribute, the adventures of these animals reveal both the unintended comedy of Freud’s case histories and their psychic depths.

From the Author:

  DO I HATE FREUD? NO, DO YOU?   More than one person has asked for my true feelings about Dr. Floyd, and by extension Dr. Freud. What is the tone of "In the Floyd Archives"? Does it ridicule the whole Freudian enterprise or is it a loving spoof? What kind of a bird is Dr. Floyd - a wise owl or a total loon?   I grew up with Freud. My dad had a shelf of his writings and applied them liberally to daily life. He would label his wife's and his daughters' emotional outbursts "hysterical." (They weren't.) We learned how to find the latent criticism behind casual remarks, jokes, and compliments. (Some would say we were paranoid.) When I went on mountaineering trips against my folks' wishes, I was told I had a death drive. (Yes, but whose death?) We were always on the lookout for unconscious motives. (And they were always there.) Freud's ideas were the first intellectual concepts I really grappled with. In high school, I wrote an English paper on The Ego and the Id.   In the early 1990s, when I first began to draw and write "In the Floyd Archives," I was the editor at The New York Times Book Review in charge of the science and psychology books, including those on Freud and psychoanalysis. I assigned reviews of Susanna Kaysen's "Girl, Interrupted," Peter Kramer's "Listening To Prozac," and Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's "Final Analysis." (I came ten years too late to handle Janet Malcolm's book "In the Freud Archives," which sparked my comic's title.)    And I reviewed a few books on psychology and psychoanalysis myself, including Adam Phillips's  "On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored," Christopher Bollas's "Being a Character" and "Cracking Up," Paul Roazen's "How Freud Worked," Richard Pollak's biography of Bruno Bettelheim, and "The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones." Clearly psychoanalysis was still a going enterprise, but it was clearly under fire.    During the height of the so-called Freud Wars, I was occasionally on the front lines, embedded more or less with the Freudian troops. Why me? I spoke their language and cared more than most people I knew on the Times's staff about psychoanalysis. I wrote about the future of the Oedipus Complex. I composed the obituary of Kurt Eissler, the head of the Sigmund Freud Archives, which dealt with his tragic choice of a successor, Jeffrey Masson, who turned out to be a wolf in the henhouse. I covered a symposium where psychoanalysts pondered what to do about the Seduction Theory - the idea, put forward and then retracted by Freud, that every hysteric was seduced as a child. (The idea and its abandonment were equally problematic.) As I listened to these analysts talking about the difference between historical truth (what really happened) and psychological truth (what patients and analysts believed happened), I could see that they were back on their heels.    Freud's attackers were powerful. Frederick Crews, for instance, seemed to have had full rein at The New York Review of Books, where he published scathing essays on Freud's faults. And in 1995, when the Library of Congress was planning an exhibition on Freud's legacy, his critics, so the rumor went, got the show postponed until a more critical approach could be found. Finally, when the exhibition "Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture" opened three years later, it was balanced, good-humored, skeptical. Still a lot of bashers seethed. As John Forrester put it in his book "Dispatches from the Freud Wars," Freud's harshest critics had a "heartfelt wish that Freud might never have been born or, failing to achieve that end, that all his works and influence be made as nothing."   Were the critics going to get their way? Was the ship of Freud sinking? Were there any lifeboats? I gathered all the Freud-bashing books I could find and reviewed them. The tone of my review was fairly breezy, as if Team Psychoanalysis would sail on no matter what, with a cigar-smoking Freud at its prow. I wrote: "Freud has proved to be a great whipping boy for our time. He has been blamed for turning children against their parents (Frederick Crews) and for excusing parents who seduce their children (Jeffrey Masson), for being a crypto-biologist (Frank Sulloway) and a crypto-priest (Richard Webster), for believing patients too little (Jeffrey Masson) and too much (Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen), for hiding his faults (Henri Ellenberger) and flaunting them (John Farrell). Freud may have been bad. But can he really have been bad in so many contradictory ways?" I was cocky, but I was worried.   It was during the Freud Wars that I finished writing and drawing my comic "In the Floyd Archives." Looking back now, I can see it is a work of deep ambivalence. I love Freud's language and his way of thinking, but I loathe some of his methods. So I looked at Freud slantwise, even turned him on himself. I was especially drawn to the case histories, his most vivid and dramatic material. I knew it was dangerous territory.   In the Wolf Man case, Freud overreached in claiming to know exactly what his patient actually observed as an infant and how it affected him. And the infamous Dora case was Freud at his worst; this was ground zero for "no means yes." In dealing with this almost absurdly problematic material, though, I wanted to bring out Freud's sparkle and mischief - his ability to be both literal-minded and metaphorical, his gift for playing with puns and slips. I wanted to have some fun.   In 2001, a month before September 11, "In the Floyd Archives" was first published by Pantheon. (In fact, my New York book party was originally scheduled for that night.) At my earliest book talks, some audience members were outraged that I was engaging Freud's ideas at all. I was often put on the defensive. Someone would stand and ask: If Freud has been discredited, why spend so much time on him?  Closer to home, there were opposite challenges. From Freudians and fans of psychoanalysis, including a few from my own family, came questions about the tone of "In the Floyd Archives." What was my real attitude toward Freud?   Once again, I was on the defensive. I meant for Dr. Floyd to be a little ridiculous. But it was all good Freudian fun, wasn't it? I was using Freud's own ideas and language to point out his flaws. I played on Freud's animal names, the Rat Man and the Wolf Man. Even the structure of my book borrowed from Freud; as one reader pointed out, my drawings functioned like dreams and the footnotes were the latent content. So wasn't I honoring Freud by playing with him, fighting him on the very playground he had built?    I do not hate Freud. Freud is family. I grew up with him. Yes, he had faults, serious ones. But there is so much brilliance. Take the case of the Rat Man, my favorite. Freud, whose study was cluttered with antiquities, once told the Rat Man that if he kept his unconscious thoughts buried, he would also be helping to preserve them, just as antiquities are protected from air, hands, soot, and accidents as long as they are left buried. I love that metaphor and think of it often. It is complex and compact. Without Freud, it would not exist. Without Freud: No Freudian slips. No Oedipus Complex. No Ego. No Id.   No, I do not hate Freud. Nor do I worship him. You could say I am conflicted, which is of course an idea straight from Freud, who famously defined the psyche as a field of conflicts. Whether you like Freud or fight Freud is immaterial. Freud is part of the air we breathe and the language we speak. So, take a deep breath and dive in!

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