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novel therapy

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“Nature is a Haunted House—
but Art—a House that tries to be haunted. ”

—Emily Dickinson

Case Notes: Patty Emerson Berglund
Fictional Work: Freedom
Author: Jonathan Franzen

Patty came to me because of chronic recurring depression and intermittent alcoholic behavior due to a traumatic event early in the narrative. (Patty was seventeen.) As the main female character in an ambitious work of realist fiction, Patty knows that something awful has to happen to her. Her issue is with plausibility. Franzen wrote Patty into a drunken date rape during a pool party. Patty’s teenaged rapist actually put on a condom before he violated her.

Patty’s anger and lack of trust in her author has interfered with her ability to move forward in her life post-denouement. She expressed her confused anger several times: What rapist uses a condom?

(NB: I agree. Doesn’t make sense.)

As Patty’s author, Mr. Franzen, has every right to structure his novel around a traumatic and horrible experience. But he could have at least made it believable. Patty and I agree that it will take more than a few sessions to unravel her feelings and work toward resolution. She is aware that a rewrite, a prequel, or a recall are out of the question.

Another big issue is the way Franzen developed Patty’s relationship with her son. Franzen wrote the son out of Patty’s house during his junior year in high school. The son actually moved in with the next-door neighbor. Though Patty recognizes that this is rich, fertile ground for fiction, she wishes she could have kept her son at home.

(NB:Plausibility might be thin, but I’m siding with Franzen on this one.)

Have asked Patty to check with her insurance company before we settle on her session fee.

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