After revisiting Poe’s lurid story about the mad Usher family a few years ago, Roderick Usher in particular, I got to thinking about my mom’s cousin’s son, Rod Usher, whom I’d met only once but would never forget. In searching for him online, I found another Rod Usher, the Australian novelist, and ordered a copy of his novel at once. To my pleasant surprise (or un-surprise),Rod made a reference to Poe’s Ushers in his novel “Florid States”:
With (their daughter) Lucy’s death, it (the marriage) had begun to crumble, until fissures opened and it crashed about her and her husband like the House of Usher.
I love the scene where Dr. Logan tells Ned he’s held up well — “only” four shut-aways in 8 years:
Ned: “Yes, but you’re implying, particularly when you say ‘managing,’ a role for willpower over chemistry, and you a man of science! We’ve had this out often enough. When the voices succeed, when I lose my palpable lucidity…”
(Doc likes the term “software malfunction” better than “florid psychosis”)
Ned: “You of all people wouldn’t be the one I’d pick to be putting the gloss of willpower over failure of the reality filter, whatever it is that temporarily stops sorting out the goats in everyday perception. You who have always explained to me that the tripwires are chemical, invisible to me as the beams on those automatic doors. If there’s an element of will, why is the solution no better than brains on toast?…. Ground Control loses touch with Major Tom somewhere, but don’t give me any shit about it being re-established because Tom *wants* it to be. What’s a man’s will against an involuntary chemical process, or lack of, inside his head? You can’t replace blown fuse with hope. That theory’s like saying a trapeze artist only needs to *think* that he can’t fall?”
(At the end of every session), it would be blunt talk about management of Modecate and other Major Ts, as Ned called them; tranquillisers, not astronauts. Talk about sleeping patterns, about side-effects, sinister spinoffs like tardive dyskinesia….
Dr. Logan: “I want to have a bit each way. You’ve said that sometimes, in an early onset, you *can* shut it off, put the voices on such low volume that they fade right out. Maybe turn stereo to mono, cut one voice out of it?
“So the chemistry isn’t fully imbalanced at that time, surely that’s all?” answered Ned. “Like a ship that lists almost to capsize then, at the critical point, for some reason, rights itself. But at that all-or-nothing stage the captain can scream his lungs out from the bridge, or sit silently preparing to go down; it’s beyond his will or influence.”
“Maybe so. Probably. But managing also involves knowing when to take the ship out. When to leave it safely the dockside.”
“I know the word you’re going to say next.”
Dr. Logan smiled. Nodded.
He might as well have said pudding, Ned thought to himself.
- I found another famous Rod Usher — Frontman for The Other, a European horror-punk band: “Being huge fans of US authors like Poe, Lovecraft or King and Classic US Horror movies we’re proud to finally being able to give a little bit of horror back to the fiends over there. Stay ghoul.”
- I like to cite Richard Dawkins’s “River Out of Eden” and his elegant mathematical proof that we are all cousins, but so far, most Ushers seem content not to claim each other. The Ushers I know tend to be private, if not reclusive. I’m merely the granddaughter of an Usher, with plenty of other family lines mixed into the brew, but I fit the pattern. Like the narrator Chick in Saul Bellow’s novel Ravelstein: “Too many years of inwardness!”with an occasional need for “a humanity bath” — and “As cattle must have salt to lick, I sometimes crave physical contact.”Meanwhile, I’ll keep hiding out on our acreage, reading novels, writing them, editing manuscripts for fellow workshop members, and seeking the occasional elbow rub with other people when I come out of hiding.