Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Sigmund Freud in America, Shirley Jackson at home, and Edith Wharton in the archives.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, June 02, 2017

Sigmund Freud, 1922. Photograph byMax Halberstadt.

Sigmund Freud traveled to America only to have stomach problems and dreams that were too sexy: “Perhaps worst of all was his insomnia: American women were giving him erotic dreams and affecting his ability to get a good night’s sleep. While in Worcester, he confided in Carl Jung, who had also been invited to speak, that he hadn’t ‘been able to sleep since [he] came to America’ and that he ‘continue[d] to dream of prostitutes.’ When Jung pointed out a rather obvious solution to this problem, Freud indignantly reminded him that he was married.” (Mental Floss)

• This week in newly rediscovered material from famous authors: a play by Edith Wharton. (The Guardian)

• The work and home lives of Shirley Jackson: “Jackson was not immune to the cultural expectations of the world in which she lived. When she arrived at the hospital to deliver her third child and was asked her occupation, she responded ‘writer.’ The nurse taking her information responded, ‘I’ll just put down housewife.’ In interviews and publicity, she often framed herself as a wife and mother who also wrote. Money earned from her writing often went to domestic ends: new kitchen appliances, a washing machine, an outdoor playhouse for the children.” (Public Books)

• The French lawyer who made himself a Patagonian king. (The Awl)

• During the first and second World Wars, knitting could be more than a hobby: “When knitters used knitting to encode messages, the message was a form of steganography, a way to hide a message physically (which includes, for example, hiding morse code somewhere on a postcard, or digitally disguising one image within another). If the message must be low-tech, knitting is great for this; every knitted garment is made of different combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a ‘v,’ and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump. By making a specific combination of knits and purls in a predetermined pattern, spies could pass on a custom piece of fabric and read the secret message, buried in the innocent warmth of a scarf or hat.” (Atlas Obscura)

• Considering sex in American fiction. (Bookforum)