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Showing posts from October, 2016

The English Patient and the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas 20 and 25 years later: What happens to the loves that lie within?

I recently experienced two very different trips into the past.  The first was a return to a place and a community that was formative for me personally and professionally 25 years ago – but the physical place where the growth occurred no longer exists, something that I was quite unprepared for.  The second was re-watching The English Patient – a film that I vaguely recalled as a love story – and, though I recalled many scenes and events within it, I did not recall the thread that wove the elements together into a beautiful, if haunting and terrifying tapestry.  It tells the story of the ways in which love, when it has asserted itself, haunts us, even after the person we have loved is gone.
The Menninger Clinic in its Hey Day
I was a trainee at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka Kansas for three years from 1989-1992.  Menninger was then and still is (in a second incarnation) among the premier psychiatric hospitals in the country.  It was then geographically isolated – Topeka is a small cit…

Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek: Antiheroes face the things that most of us do.

I recently posted about The Magnificent Seven and a nonfiction book called Shadow Divers.  The heroes of both the movie and the book were men who were good at using tools and their bodies to solve complex problems.  The heroes in both were not so good at the messy stuff of life – at engaging in long term intimate relationships.  I speculated that their interests – in gun fighting and deep sea diving respectively – might have been propelled by fears of engaging in that stuff.  If they needed any evidence that human attachments are to be feared, they would have found it in this long, complex and deeply satisfying novel.
Pete Snow is a social worker in rural Montana.  The son of a successful but demanding rancher/ financier and the brother of a man who is wanted for assaulting his parole office – the parole officer in this small town is the brothers’ mutual friend in high school - Pete is a long haired blond divorced father of a teen aged girl he named Rachel, and he seems much more con…