Symptoms: Health fine until reads Walker latest. Immediate somatic distress of all systems inch pulmonary; digestive crisis, upper, middle, and lower; cardiac irregularity; low and high blood pressure; skin rashes and lesions; emerging hyperallergenic reactions to paper, ink, reading process. Psychosomatic reactions: delusions of persecution, fears of apocalypse, entropic anxieties, all leading to reaction formation of unjustified bipolar despair/joy.

Toxins Indicated: Walker syntactic breakdown, sentence fragments, logical void. Word processing/chat room/cultural inversion induces paranoid hostility. Walker notes for first draft publ. as “book” = other books on shelf/outragenausea. Narcissistic twaddle palmed off as “art.” Deserves “F” in community college “creative writing” class. Identity crisis: Countercultural pose sanctioned by big-time establishment publisher w/book tour = demonstration of big lie. Counterculture = establishment.

Gnosis: Political and other antinomianism, cornball sentiments, approves of The Bridges of Madison County. Alice Walker subject = Alice Walker. “Autobiographical” “stories” = failure of imagination but needs new book for book tour and money, tax write-offs. Problem: how to retain victim status while exploiting success. Solution: self-absorbed recitals of thinly disguised but entirely self-serving blathering about victimization—race, poverty, civil-rights movement, writing, resentments of family, divorce, feelings, feelings about feelings. Account of divorce = account of her sensitivity then and now; ex-husband not entirely friendly about divorce = male shortcoming. Alice Walker motifs throughout “book” repeat familiar themes for dissertations about Alice Walker being written even now. Motifs: approving citations of communist dictators such as Fidel Castro (compare Maurice Bishop in previous essay); numerous accounts of men hitting women and men betraying women (though no man wrote this junk); crying a lot (though only this book itself justifies tears); unassimilated references to food, lesbian stories, and acknowledgments of self-absorption and such demonstrations of ignorance as “I asked him Why not and he said that white male writers, like Faulkner and Hawthorne and Mark Twain never wrote about themselves, and that they were masters at it. And I asked him whether this didn’t come out of a tradition of being a writer but needing to keep quiet about the slaving and gunrunning and Indian killing in your family tree. In other words, I said, if white men wrote truthfully about themselves, how could they continue to fool the rest of us?” Acknowledgment of wealth problem, in exceptional statement of grammatical order: “Today I own large, beautiful houses, overcompensation for the shacks in which I was raised; and when I travel, my hotel suite is nearly as large as our old house.” Footnotes to names of characters, denying that they are real names, bizarre in book of stories—confusion of complete self-absorption trumps any generic/conventional considerations. Reading Alice Walker = entertaining alien “thoughts.” To do that = psychic crisis.

Diagnosis: Alice Walker problem superficial—only part of larger cultural crisis which shatters reason, identity, and knowledge. Reaction essentially healthy = rejection of chaos. Indignation righteous. Therefore: return to order with good, not bad, art. Reaffirm sound values. Health issue takes care of itself if strip malls, contemporary popular music, and toxic anti-discourse are avoided.

Prescriptive Psychic Antitoxins: Attend Latin Masses. Read Bible in spite of her reading it. Read Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas. Read fiction with care for syntactical/logical reaffirmation: Smollett, Fielding, Austen, Waugh. Go to museums, looking only at representational art at least 200 years old. Practice “male gaze” on provocative sculptures. Tour Europe, ignore teenagers and traffic. Look at cathedrals and cashes. Listen to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. Rent John Wayne videos, films noirs ditto. Cultivate phallogocentric restoratives: open doors for women, flirt, etc. Practice good manners especially when that annoys countercultural aliens.

Physical Therapies Recommended: Tobacco (filters). Alcohol (ladies’ cocktails counterindicated). Wine with pasta and other eurocentric foods. Hitting things (baseballs, golf balls, hockey pucks). Kicking things (footballs, soccer balls, doors). Running (not jogging). Boxing, martial arts. Swearing, good for lungs and head. Join gun club, obtain license to carry, practice quick draw and aim, avoid hearing damage from hours of shooting. Acquire shotgun (twelve-gauge pump, buckshot) for residential protection. Cultivate manliness at all times. To keep on toes, accept offers to step outside of bars.

Rx (Homeopathic Remedies, Caution Indicated): To ease transition into debased Zeitgeist, immerse in destructive element. Sample Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies videos, Julia Roberts movies, Hillary Rodham Clinton photos daily in newspapers, Oprah Winfrey whining about weight and wealth problems daily on television, etc. Cheek out political pronouncements of Alec Baldwin, Barbra Streisand, Barney Frank, and Jerrold Nadler. Memorize Al Gore unctions about “saving the integrity of our democratic process.” Approach Alice Walker “books” with forked stick. Take two aspirins and call in morning.


[The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart, by Alice Walker (New York: Random House) 201 pp., $23.95]