— When novelists claim they do not invent it, but hear voices and find stories in their head, they are neither joking nor crazy.

— When characters, narrators, or muses have minds of their own and occasionally take over, they are alternate personalities.

— Alternate personalities and memory gaps, but no significant distress or dysfunction, is a normal version of multiple personality.

— normal Multiple Personality Trait (MPT), not clinical Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)

— The normal version of multiple personality is an asset in fiction writing when some alternate personalities are storytellers.

— Multiple personality originates when imaginative children with normal brains have unassuaged trauma as victim or witness.

— Psychiatrists, whose standard mental status exam fails to ask about memory gaps, think they never see multiple personality.

— They need the clue of memory gaps, because alternate personalities don’t acknowledge their presence until their cover is blown.

— In novels, most multiple personality, per se, is unnoticed, unintentional, and reflects the author’s view of ordinary psychology.

— Multiple personality means one person who has more than one identity and memory bank, not psychosis or possession.

— Euphemisms for alternate personalities may include pseudonyms, alter egos, doubles, double consciousness, voice or voices.

— Each time you visit, search name index or subject index, choose another name or subject, and search it.

— If you read only recent posts, you are missing most of what this site has to offer.

— Please submit questions and comments. Please share this site with friends and colleagues.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

P. D. James (post 3) on Characters and Fiction Writing Process: “It feels as if what I am doing is not inventing them but getting in touch with them”

“And however well I think I know my characters, they reveal themselves more clearly during the writing of the book, so that at the end, however carefully and intricately the work is plotted, I never get exactly the novel I planned. It feels, indeed, as if the characters and everything that happens to them exists in some limbo of the imagination, so that what I am doing is not inventing them but getting in touch with them and putting their story down in black and white, a process of revelation, not of creation” (1, pp. 157-158).

What kind of known psychological entity could these imaginary characters be if they feel to writers more like people they get to know than like puppets they had invented? Hint: alternate personalities are imaginary characters that seem more like people you get to know than like puppets you had invented.

1. P. D. James. Talking About Detective Fiction. New York, Vintage/Random House, 2009/2011.

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini (post 3): Importance of protagonist’s symptoms of multiple personality (his voices) is their irrelevance

Why, on two occasions, is the protagonist portrayed as hearing the kind of voices that are typical of multiple personality (see previous posts)? I have finished this novel, and there turns out to be no good reason for his hearing such voices in either plot or character development.

This is what I call “gratuitous multiple personality.” And the reason for it is that it reflects the author’s view of ordinary psychology—or, at least, in this case, his view of the psychology of fiction writers, since the protagonist of this novel is a novelist—based on the author’s own psychology.

My finding gratuitous multiple personality in many novels is part of my evidence that many fiction writers have multiple personality trait.

Another thing I have found in many novels is “unacknowledged multiple personality,” which means that a work of fiction has unlabeled symptoms of multiple personality that are integral to plot or character development and are relevant to understanding what you are reading.

Search “gratuitous multiple personality” and “unacknowledged multiple personality” on this site for previous discussions in regard to many other writers.

Of course, you need the Search Box to do that, and if you don’t see it on your mobile device or smartphone, please visit this site with a larger category of device, whenever available.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini (post 2): An alternate personality cautions cowardly Amir against a fight to the death with a psychopath

Many years later, Amir—having been living in California, gotten married, and published several novels—learns that Hassan is dead, but that Hassan’s son is an orphan living in Taliban-terrorized Afghanistan.

Indeed, as Amir is shocked to learn, Hassan had been his half brother, making Hassan’s son Amir’s nephew. So now the only way that Amir can resolve his guilt for not having intervened in Hassan’s rape (see previous post) is to save the nephew.

Coincidentally, the psychopathic Taliban ringleader who has taken abusive custody of the young nephew is the very same man who had raped Hassan many years before. And so there is going to be a showdown, a physical fight, potentially to the death, between the mild-mannered novelist and the brass-knuckled sadist.

In the following passage, italics are once again used by the author to indicate when an alternate personality is talking. Also note Amir’s reference to it as “part of me” who is speaking. People with undiagnosed multiple personality often to refer to their alternate personalities as being “parts” that have their own voice and mind.

“I was thousands of miles from my wife…There was a very realistic chance that I was going to render [my wife] a widow, at the age of thirty-six. This isn’t you, Amir, part of me said. You’re gutless. It’s how you were made. And that’s not such a bad thing because your saving grace is that you’ve never lied to yourself about it. Not about that. Nothing wrong with cowardice as long as it comes with prudence. But when a coward stops remembering who he is…God help him” (1, p. 275).

1. Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner [2003]. New York, Riverhead Books, 2013.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini: Amir hears the cold, dark voice of his alternate personality, who criticizes Amir’s childhood playmate, Hassan

In the first hundred pages of this novel, the first-person protagonist, Amir, looking back from 2001, recalls his life as a twelve-year-old boy in 1970s Afghanistan. His mother had died when he was born. His father, rich and manly, has always treated Amir, a budding writer, as a big disappointment.

After winning the Kite-flying competition, Amir witnesses his Kite-flying partner and lifelong playmate, Hassan, being raped by a Hitler-admiring bully and two accomplices. Amir fails to intervene, because he fears that he, himself, would be severely beaten. Moreover, he does not tell his father about the rape, because his failure to defend Hassan would reinforce his father’s disappointment in him. Then he compounds his moral guilt by plotting to have Hassan move far away, so that Amir would not be continually reminded of his own cowardice.

Earlier in the novel, there had been an incident that helps explain why Amir later fails to defend Hassan: Amir reads one of his short stories to Hassan, a story in which a character commits murder to make himself cry, because his tears are magically turned into pearls. Hassan asks why the character could not have made himself cry with an onion.

“I was stunned. That particular point, so obvious it was utterly stupid, hadn’t even occurred to me…Taught by Hassan, of all people. Hassan who couldn’t read and had never written a single word in his entire life. A voice, cold and dark, suddenly whispered in my ear, What does he know, that illiterate Hazara? He’ll never be anything but a cook. How dare he criticize you?” (1, p. 34).

Most nonpsychotic, normal people do not hear rational voices who seem to have opinions, and who address the regular self as “you.” Only people with multiple personality hear such voices. Thus, Amir, who is a nonpsychotic, normal, budding fiction writer, was hearing the voice of an alternate personality.

Assuming that the author was not knowingly and intentionally building a case that Amir had multiple personality, then the author may have mistakenly thought that most people hear such voices, because the author occasionally did.

1. Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner [2003]. New York, Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House, 2013.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

New York Times asks, “What Book Does Ruth Ware Call ‘Truly Terrifying’?” Ruth Ware cites Shirley Jackson. Both writers feature multiple personality.

Please search “Ruth Ware” and “Shirley Jackson” on this site to read my interesting discussions.

What does a person with multiple personality look like? The following past posts will give you the general idea.

April 25, 2017
What does a person with multiple personality look like?

If you google that question, you will be told what a person with multiple personality looks like, their signs and symptoms, after they have been diagnosed, when the alternate personalities have had their cover blown, so to speak, not what the person looked like or how they behaved before that.

Before a person with multiple personality has been diagnosed, they do have all those signs and symptoms, and have had them since childhood, but not for show. You will probably meet only the person’s host personality, not their alternate personalities, who are usually not “out.” Thus, the signs and symptoms, though present, are inconspicuous.

So what does a person with multiple personality look like? They usually look like everyone else.

(For past posts on diagnosis, search “mental status,” “diagnostic criteria,” and “memory gaps.”)

August 6, 2016
Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” (post 4): Further symptoms of multiple personality that was diagnosable at the beginning of the novel (post 3)

Hearing Voices
The first-person narrator and protagonist, Esther Greenwood, never complains of, mentions to a doctor, or is ever treated for, auditory hallucinations. It is not considered one of her symptoms. Why not? Apparently, she had heard voices for a long time and they were not associated with distress or dysfunction. She mentions them only in passing:

When she is about to ski dangerously, she hears an “interior voice nagging me not to be a fool” and says she has had “year after year of doubleness” (1, p. 97).

“I summoned my little chorus of voices.
Doesn't your work interest you, Esther?
You know, Esther, you’ve got the perfect setup of a true neurotic.
You’ll never get anywhere like that, you’ll never get anywhere like that, you’ll never get anywhere like that” (1, p. 146).

These are the voices of some of her alternate personalities.

Alternate Personalities
“I decided I would spend the summer writing a novel. That would fix a lot of people…From another, distanced mind, I saw myself…(1, pp. 119-120).

“I tried to speak in a cool, calm way, but the zombie rose up in my throat and choked me off” (1, p. 126).

Alternate Handwriting
“And then, I thought, [the doctor] would help me, step by step, to be myself again…I told Doctor Gordon about not sleeping and not eating and not reading. I didn’t tell him about the handwriting, which bothered me most of all…when I took up my pen, my hand made big, jerky letters like those of a child…” (1, pp. 129-130).

Alternate personalities may have different handwritings. The “letters like those of a child” suggest that some of her distress and dysfunction may have been due to the presence of a depressed, child-aged, alternate personality.

Mirrors have been a recurrent subject in this blog, because persons with multiple personality may see an alternate personality when they look in the mirror. A previous instance in this novel—Esther saw a Chinese woman when she looked in the mirror—was cited in a previous post. Here is another example:

“I moved in front of the medicine cabinet. If I looked in the mirror while I did it [committed suicide], it would be like watching somebody else, in a book or play. But the person in the mirror was paralyzed and too stupid to do a thing” (1, p. 148).

Unreliable Narrator
Esther’s main complaints to psychiatrists (other than her suicidality) were her insomnia, anorexia, and inability to read, already mentioned above. Her claim not to have slept for a month is not only impossible, but belied by the fact of her reserves of energy when she was swimming in the ocean, and by the fact that a nurse in the hospital witnessed that she slept. She claimed not to be able to read, but then she admits reading books on abnormal psychology. She claims to have no appetite, but then realizes she has just demonstrated a good appetite. She is not knowingly lying. It is just that one personality often does not know what other personalities are doing.

“…I must be just about the only person in the world who had stayed awake for a solid month without dropping dead of exhaustion…I thought drowning must be the kindest way to die…[She is at the beach, and she challenges the young man she is with to swim out into the ocean with her] out to that rock out there. Are you crazy? That’s a mile out [he says]. What are you?, I said. Chicken?” (1, p. 157). They swim out, but he turns back due to exhaustion. She continues to swim out, and tries to drown herself, but she keeps bobbing up to the surface. “I knew I was beaten. I turned back” (1, p. 161).

“The only thing I could read, besides the scandal sheets, were those abnormal-psychology books. It was as if some slim opening had been left, so I could learn all I needed to know about my case to end it in the proper way” (1, p. 159).

“I can’t sleep…
They interrupted me. “But the nurse says you slept last night.”
“I can’t eat” [but] “It occurred to me I’d been eating ravenously ever since I came to” [after her recent, near-fatal, suicide attempt] (1, p. 177).

The novel was originally published under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas,” with the explanation that it would protect the feelings of people on whom characters were based. Another reason might have been that the author’s main writing personality did not identify with the author’s regular name.

Diagnosis and Treatment
No diagnosis is ever mentioned in the novel. Hospital treatment includes a supportive environment, insulin injections, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and ECT.

Based on what I have cited from the text in this and prior posts, I am sure that Esther had multiple personality. She also had major depression, but, based on available information, I cannot be sure of whether her depression was a separate condition or was secondary to the multiple personality (confined to only certain personalities, and would have remitted with appropriate psychotherapy for the multiple personality).

Esther proclaims her recovery in terms of a restoration of her regular personality:

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am” (1, p. 243).

However, for Sylvia Plath, the cure was only temporary, because multiple personality was rarely diagnosed and treated in those days.

1. Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar [1963/1971]. New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006.

June 29, 2015
Stephen King quoted on Writing: His voices, visions, trances; his becoming or observing autonomous characters; his cowriter muse and discovered stories

“…to be a writer…you have to imagine worlds that aren’t there…You’re hearing voices…As children…we’re told to distinguish between reality and those things. Adults will say, ‘You have an invisible friend, that’s nice, you’ll outgrow that.’ Writers don’t outgrow it” (1, p. 4).

“When I write as Richard Bachman [a pseudonym under which King wrote several novels], it opens up that part of my mind. It’s like a hypnotic suggestion that frees me to be somebody who is a little bit different…and it was fun to be somebody else for a while, in this case, Richard Bachman” (1, pp. 138-139).

“After writing more than a dozen novels, one thing hadn’t changed: Steve rarely provided detailed physical descriptions for the characters he created. ‘For me, the characters’ physical being is just not there. If I’m inside a character, I don’t see myself because I’m inside that person,’ he explained” (1, p. 147).

“[King] was by himself…he was thinking about getting high later…Then, out of the blue, came a voice that told him to reconsider. You don’t have to do this anymore if you don’t want to was the exact phrase he heard. ‘It’s like it wasn’t my voice,’ he said later” (1, pp. 159-160).

“There is a muse—traditionally, the muses were women, but mine’s a guy…He may not be much to look at, that muse guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty…” (2, pp. 144-145).

“You may wonder where plot is in all this. The answer—my answer, anyway—is nowhere. I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted…I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible…I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and transcribe them, of course)…When, during the course of an interview for The New Yorker, I told the interviewer that I believed stories are found things, like fossils in the ground, he said that he didn’t believe me. I replied that…I believe it. And I do…Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world…My job [is to] watch what happens and then write it down…I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way…” (2, pp. 163-165).

“And if you do your job, your characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own. I know that sounds a little creepy if you haven’t actually experienced it, but it’s terrific fun when it happens. And it will solve a lot of your problems, believe me” (2, p. 195).

“Part of my function as a writer is to dream awake. And that usually happens. If I sit down to write in the morning, in the beginning of that writing session and the ending of that session, I’m aware that I’m writing. I’m aware of my surroundings…But in the middle, the world is gone and I’m able to see better…I can remember finding that state for the first time and being delighted. It’s a little bit like finding a secret door in a room [or like Alice falling down a rabbit hole?] but not knowing exactly how you got in…And after doing that for a while it was a little bit like having a posthypnotic suggestion” (3, pp. 141-142).

All the above is characteristic of multiple personality (in this case, normal multiple personality). People with multiple personality may hear the voices of their autonomous, alternate personalities, or may see them, or may switch to become them. It all has similarities to hypnosis; indeed, one old theory of multiple personality is that it is a kind of self-hypnosis.

1. Lisa Rogak. Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King. New York, Thomas Dunne St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008.
2. Stephen King. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York, Scribner, 2000/2010.
3. Naomi Epel. Writers Dreaming. New York, Carol Southern Books, 1993.

January 3, 2015
Denial and Dissimulation: Patients Usually Reject the Diagnosis of Multiple Personality and Disclaim the Evidence and Behavior on Which It is Based

With most psychological conditions, the person knows that they have it. They may or may not know what it’s called, but they know, and acknowledge, that they have the symptoms.

For example, a person with panic disorder may or may not know that they have “panic disorder,” but they know that they have panic attacks. For a psychiatrist to say, “Well, you may not know that you experience panic attacks, but I know that you do, unconsciously,” would be ridiculous.

Indeed, there is no diagnosis in the psychiatric diagnostic manual (DSM-5) that involves a psychoanalytic interpretation. And this has been true since 1980 (DSM-3), when psychoanalytic terms and concepts were deleted from the manual.

Unlike other diagnoses in the manual, the person with multiple personality usually doesn’t know that they have it. The reason is that the “patient”—the host personality—usually has amnesia for any period of time during which an alternate personality (alter) has come “out.”

But, even if the host doesn’t know that the person has multiple personality, don’t the alters know? Yes, they do have self-awareness. But, no, they don’t see it as multiple personality. To them, they are other people. (They are alters, not other people, but I’m telling you how they see it.)

Moreover, the alters don’t want either the host or any meddling outsider (like a psychiatrist) to know about them, so they usually come out incognito (answering to the regular name, even though, secretly, they may have their own name).

So how is the diagnosis made? Clues such as puzzling behavioral inconsistencies and memory gaps—the host may know that he or she has a history of memory gaps—will alert the clinician to recognize when an alter does come out. And when the alter is “caught” being out, the alter will often acknowledge who they are and provide information that can be corroborated.

How can you recognize that you are speaking to an alter? To give one clinical example, a patient once came to see me for her usual appointment, and immediately expressed outrage about the antidepressant medication that I had been prescribing for some months. She angrily insisted that I discontinue it. This surprised me, because at past appointments she had always praised the medicine and wanted to continue it.

When I remarked on her inexplicable inconsistency, the alter knew that she had been “outed.” And she explained that when the host personality took this medicine, it became very hard for the alter to come out. So the alter would sometimes hide the medicine.

Which reminded me that the patient—the host—had occasionally complained that her medicine would, mysteriously, get misplaced.

Thus, the diagnosis of multiple personality is based on overt behavior, and not on psychoanalytic interpretation. But the “patient” (host personality) will usually deny the diagnosis, and disclaim the behavior upon which the diagnosis was based, since, after all, the host doesn't remember it; and, moreover, the host doesn’t like the whole idea.

Indeed, if, prematurely, you try to prove to the host that they have multiple personality—e.g., by telling the host about a specific item that is hidden in a specific drawer at home, which the alter had told me about—then when they go home and are shocked to find that very item in that very drawer, they may drop out of treatment.

October 24, 2017
Seven reasons that skeptics, psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers, literary professors, writers, and others are against multiple personality.

One reason people give for being against multiple personality is that they have never seen it. But there are many conditions that they have never seen, yet they are not antagonistic toward them.

A second reason some people are against multiple personality is that it is absurd to think that a person could have other people inside them. But multiple personality does not mean, and has never meant, multiple people.

Indeed, to get away from that misunderstanding, the American Psychiatric Association changed the name from “multiple personality disorder” to “dissociative identity disorder” to emphasize that the person is psychologically divided, not physically multiplied. When the person switches from one personality to another, it may look like they are more than one person (hence the persistent popularity of the older term), but the diagnosis has never claimed that anyone is more than one person.

Moreover, the diagnosis of multiple personality has nothing to do with schizophrenia and is not a psychosis. It is unfortunate that use of the nonspecific term “madness” has often confused multiple personality with schizophrenia.

A third reason is that many people come from religious traditions that believed in demon possession. They may see the diagnosis of multiple personality as infringing on religion, or may feel that multiple personality actually is demon possession, which is frightening. But the diagnosis of multiple personality assumes that it is a psychological condition.

A fourth reason goes back to the first reason, and is that even eminent and vastly experienced psychiatrists may never have seen a case of multiple personality. I discuss this at length in past posts on the standard mental status examination: it fails to inquire about memory gaps or to investigate puzzling inconsistencies. Most psychiatrists in the USA and probably elsewhere have never been taught how this diagnosis is made or how undiagnosed cases present.

A fifth reason is the false connection between multiple personality and “repressed memory” and “satanic ritual abuse,” which were fads.

A sixth reason is the lingering effect of Freud and the concepts of “repression” and “the unconscious.” In contrast, multiple personality is based on the concepts of dissociation and multiple dissociated consciousness. In multiple personality, things that are “unconscious” to one personality are perfectly conscious to another personality.

A seventh reason is the claim that multiple personality is a meaningless idea, because, in a sense, everyone has multiple personality. But everyone does not have the subjective sense of being more than one person, and does not have memory gaps for the periods of time that an alternate personality was in control.

The kernel of truth in the idea that everyone has multiple personality is that many more people do have it than most people think, because, as I discuss in this blog, there is a normal version, which is much more common than the clinical version.

The normal version is normal in that it does not cause the person clinically significant distress or dysfunction. Indeed, the normal version may be an asset; for example, in writing novels.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

To repeat, this site is serial book (not typical blog). Plus: Is multiple personality trait in fiction writers plausible? And why should readers care?

My recent posts are only the latest mini-chapters in this serial book, which so far has 1,700 mini-chapters on 240 fiction writers, and on what multiple personality is really like.

To enjoy this free, online book, you need to see its Search Box (to access the name and subject indices, and then to search whatever writer or subject you want that day). Most mobile devices and smartphones will not see the Search Box. So when you have a larger category of device available, please use it for this site.

If you are wondering if this site is plausible, and why readers should care, consider the following:

Most medical and psychiatric illnesses have a normal version that is much more common than the illness. For every person with high blood pressure, there are many more people with normal blood pressure. For every person with clinical depression, there are many more people who feel sad at times. And for every person with multiple personality disorder (the mental illness), there are many more people with “multiple personality trait,” which is what I call the normal version. It is more common in fiction writers than in the general public, because it is helpful in the fiction writing process.

This is useful for readers of fiction to know about, because unlabeled and unacknowledged aspects of the author’s multiple personality may be reflected in the author’s works.

Friday, August 16, 2019

F. Scott Fitzgerald on Self-Contradiction: Stupidity vs. Wisdom vs. Multiple Personality

“It’s No Felony to Violate the Law of Contradiction” says an essay in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The essay begins with a famous quotation from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” —from The Crack-up [1936]

But F. Scott Fitzgerald, like most fiction writers, may have had multiple personality trait, as another of his quotes suggests:

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” —from The Love of The Last Tycoon: A Western [1941]

In short, there are different kinds and degrees of contradictory attitudes, ranging from stupidity to wisdom to the puzzling inconsistency of alternate personalities (puzzling when you don’t know that the person has multiple personality).

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Mobile devices may not see user-friendly features: Search Box to access Name and Subject Indices, to find posts on 240 writers and many subjects. Please visit on largest available device.

“Cover Her Face” by P. D. James (post 2): Author’s hero of opposite sex may be clue to author’s multiple personality trait

From Miss Marple and Nancy Drew to the present day, it has been obvious that very successful fictional detectives may be female. So P. D. James probably had personal reasons for making her hero (Adam Dalgliesh) a man.

I used to have the misconception that detective novelists, since their stories have to be so carefully plotted, are not subject to the same psychology (multiple personality trait) as literary novelists. But when I studied various detective novelists (Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sue Grafton, etc.), I found that they, too, had multiple personality trait, although the evidence for it may be in lesser known things that they said or wrote.

I don’t know if there is any such evidence for P. D. James. So far, all I know (beyond what I said in the previous post) is that she, as is true of many novelists, had a sense that her novels came to her (from alternate personalities?), not from her (regular personality):

“It is almost as if the whole book and the people already exist in some limbo outside myself and it is my business, by a long process of thought and effort, to get in touch with them and put them down on paper” (1, p. 4).

Moreover, a number of novelists have acknowledged that their heroes or heroines are their idealized alter egos (alternate personalities).

And it is common in multiple personality to have some alternate personalities of the opposite sex.

So, all in all, I am tempted to consider an author’s hero of the opposite sex as a clue to the author’s multiple personality trait. (A hero of the same sex is neither for nor against it.)

1. Richard B. Gidez. P. D. James. Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1986.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

“Cover Her Face” by P. D. James: Adam Dalgliesh detective mystery opens with reminiscence by murderer, whose memory is “selective and perverse”

After finishing this novel, and looking back at the opening paragraph, my first thought was that the author was guilty of unreliable narration, which in the detective mystery genre is considered cheating (except in exceptional works, such as Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) (1926). Search “unreliable narrator” for past posts.

However, rereading the opening paragraph, I see that P. D. James may avoid the charge of cheating, because the character, Mrs. Maxie, was not knowingly lying; rather, she was at the mercy of her memory, which was “selective and perverse.” That is, at the moment of this reminiscence, Mrs. Maxie evidently has a memory gap, a symptom of multiple personality (search “memory gaps”), for having committed the murder:

“Exactly three months before the killing at Martingale Mrs. Maxie gave a dinner party. Years later, when the trial was a half-forgotten scandal and the headlines were yellowing on the newspaper lining of cupboard drawers, Eleanor Maxie looked back on that spring evening as the opening scene of tragedy. Memory, selective and perverse, invested what had been a perfectly ordinary dinner party with an aura of foreboding and unease. It became, in retrospect, a ritual gathering under one roof of victim and suspects, a staged preliminary to murder. In fact not all the suspects had been present. Felix Hearne, for one, was not at Martingale that week-end. Yet, in her memory, he too sat at Mrs. Maxie’s table, watching with amused, sardonic eyes the opening antics of the players” (1, opening paragraph).

The other character who may have had unacknowledged multiple personality is the murder victim, Sally, who has claimed to be an unmarried mother. Sally is killed by Mrs. Maxie after Sally gets Mrs. Maxie’s son to propose marriage, which happens only days before Sally’s husband, as Sally knew, was to return to England from his job of several years in Venezuela.

Sally is described as a “complex personality” (1, p. 189), who was “a clever little liar” (1, p. 198) (search “lying” for past posts), which, by itself, is rather meager proof of multiple personality. But she had been sponsored for the job at Mrs. Maxie’s mansion by a home for unwed mothers. So she had not just told a little lie, but was actually living a lie, and I find it beyond belief that a young wife and mother would do that, unless she had an alternate personality who believed it, and who was thereby helping her to cope with her husband’s “abandonment.”

So was P. D. James cheating with unreliable narration? And did she attribute behavior to Sally that was unbelievable? Or does the narration and characterization make sense if both the murderer and victim had multiple personality (even if the author would deny that she had any such intention)?

As discussed in many past posts, I consider unintentional, unacknowledged, symptoms of multiple personality in a work of fiction to be reflective of multiple personality trait in the author. But I would have to find more evidence, perhaps biographical, to make that interpretation fully credible in this case. And I don’t yet know if such evidence is available. So my interpretation in this post is tentative.

1. P. D. James. Cover Her Face [1962]. New York, Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Toni Morrison and Chloe Wofford: Did her Chloe personality do the writing, while her Toni personality took care of getting it published and publicized?

Even considering that Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize and other major awards; that she is an American, and especially an African-American, literary icon; that many readers identify with, or are sympathetic to, victims of slavery and other trauma; and that many readers find her writing to be poetic and brilliant, the number of people and articles eulogizing and expressing their adoration of her is remarkable.

It seems to me that she has been getting twice as much praise as other great writers who have died in recent years, and she is not twice as great as those other writers. But she may have had twice as great representation, which I speculate was arranged by her Toni personality.

Speaking as Chloe in interviews (see previous posts), she said that she did the writing, but that she published under the name of “Toni,” because the manuscript for her first novel was submitted to the publisher under her nickname, “Toni.” Chloe said that she tried to get her name on the novel corrected, but she was too late. And why didn’t she get her name corrected on subsequent novels? Because she was already known to the public as Toni.

In view of Chloe’s statements that her family has always continued to call her Chloe, and that Chloe was how she thought of herself when she did the writing, I think you have to be gullible to believe the reasons she gave for initially, and then continually, publishing as Toni.

My guess is that the name “Toni” was on that first manuscript, because it was her Toni personality who took care of getting Chloe’s writing published. And Toni was as brilliant at the publicity and business side of things as Chloe was at the writing. Toni was able to connect with the agents of superstardom, including: Oprah Winfrey (1), Robert Gottlieb, editor (2), Curtis Brown, literary agents (3, 4), and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, photographer (5).

Toni may have thought that Chloe was a great writer, but that without the help and publicity that Toni arranged with Oprah Winfrey, etc., Chloe would never have gained the recognition she did. Toni felt that she was as good at what she did as Chloe was at what she did, and Toni wanted her contribution recognized. So she offered to make Chloe’s writing famous, but under the name “Toni.” And it was an offer that Chloe could not refuse.

Or maybe Chloe did not make any deal with Toni. Maybe Chloe was not in communication with Toni. Maybe Chloe could never really understand why her books were misnamed, so she just rationalized it as the result of having become known by her nickname after a mistake was made on her first book. And that suited Toni.

Indeed, the backstory of her getting the nickname “Toni” in large part because people at school could not pronounce “Chloe” sounds implausible. Sure, there may have been some people who mispronounced “Chloe” at first, but my guess is that sometimes she was going around in her Toni personality, who was asking to be called “Toni,” and then when people she had told to call her “Toni” met her Chloe personality, they would call her “Toni.” And Chloe, having no memory of Toni doing that, would think that people were calling her “Toni” only because they couldn’t pronounce “Chloe.”

Of course, I have no way of knowing the actual details of what happened. But I think that anyone who believes the story—that all the subsequent books had to be published under the wrong name due to a mistake with the first one—is gullible.


Added August 11: The main problem with my two-personality interpretation (see above) is that people with multiple personality hardly ever have only two personalities. So there were probably more than one "Toni" personality. And one of them may have done the final editing and revisions of Chloe's manuscripts.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Toni Morrison’s “God Help the Child”: Author’s last novel is well-informed portrayal of traumatized people and their unrecognized multiple personality

June 5, 2015
Lula Ann Bridewell—a.k.a. little Lula Ann (pre-age 8), big Lula Ann (age 16), Ann Bride (after high school), and Bride (beautiful career-woman)—has two textbook symptoms of multiple personality: 1. going places and doing things that she can’t remember, and 2. body-image hallucinations.

The first symptom is reported on pages 51-53 (1), when Bride says that she has been “sleeping with men…and not remembering any of it.” In other words, an alternate personality has been going places and doing things that her host personality (Bride) doesn’t remember: Memory gaps are a classic, core symptom of multiple personality.

In the aftermath of one of these episodes, she looks in a mirror and sees that her earlobes do not appear to be pierced (which they have been since she was eight) and she has “not a single hair in my armpit” (p. 52). At various other times in the novel, she sees that her adult breasts have disappeared. “So this is what insanity is,” she says (p. 52).

But no, body-image hallucinations are not insanity. They are a textbook symptom of multiple personality:

“The visual hallucinations reported in MPD [multiple personality disorder] are a curious blend of hallucination and illusion and frequently include changes in the patient’s perceived body image. MPD patients often report seeing themselves as different people when they look into a mirror. They may see themselves as having hair, eyes, or skin of a different color, or as being of the opposite sex. In some instances, these alterations of perception of self are so disturbing that the individuals may phobically avoid mirrors. They may describe seeing themselves sequentially change into several different people while looking in a mirror. MPD patients may also hallucinate their alter personalities as separate people existing outside of their bodies” (2, p. 62).

What multiples are hallucinating in mirrors (and even without mirrors) are their various alternate personalities. So when Bride saw unpierced earlobes, etc., she was seeing her little, prepubescent, Lula Ann alternate personality. But since Bride did not know about multiple personality, she worried that she was insane. (She need not have worried, because multiple personality is not a psychosis.)

1.Toni Morrison. God Help the Child. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
2. Frank W. Putnam MD. Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder. New York, The Guilford Press, 1989.

June 7, 2015
Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child: Round characters? No. Character-driven? Maybe. Multiple personality makes it a literary novel.

Once you know Bride’s and Booker’s childhood traumas, their behavior is predictable. They are not very “round” characters. They are two-dimensional representatives of the lasting effects of childhood trauma. So if this is a literary novel—and it is—what makes it so?

In the first post, I noted two manifestations of Bride’s multiple personality: her amnesia episodes and her body metamorphoses (see Kafka posts). Another indication of multiple personality is at the beginning of the novel when Booker says to Bride, “You not the woman I want.” And she puzzlingly replies, “Neither am I.” Her reply is never explained. His remark is eventually explained on the basis of his childhood trauma, but I have a different explanation.

When Booker says, “You not the woman I want,” he is reacting to her not then being the same one of her personalities that he had fallen in love with. Her reply, “Neither am I”—about which Bride says to the reader, “I still don’t know why I said that. It just popped out of my mouth”—is a reply from yet another of her alternate personalities.

Other examples of multiple personality in this novel involve Booker and Sofia. Booker is described as being inhabited by his deceased brother’s personality. And Sofia’s sudden change from meek to violent is a realistic portrayal of a personality switch.

Thus, multiple personality pervades this novel, as it does in a number of Morrison’s novels (see past posts). And she is not alone. Other writers, including other Nobel Prize winners discussed in this blog, have unrecognized, unacknowledged multiple personality in their works, too.

Is it just coincidence that many literary novels have multiple personality, or are they considered literary novels, because they do have multiple personality?

When a text has unacknowledged multiple personality, the characters and story appear to have—in a way, they do have—profound, mysterious, depth. And the author seems to be—in a way, is—some kind of oracle. Perhaps having unrecognized multiple personality is part of what is meant by literary novel.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Why is Toni Morrison difficult to read?: Nameless, genderless “voice” narrates “Jazz.” Pervasiveness in novels of split personalities.

“You need to be able to read to be able to read. Especially if Toni Morrison did the writing…Reading a Toni Morrison novel was group therapy…Morrison made her audiences conversant in her—the metaphors of trauma, the melodramas of psychology…Much of the writing [in Morrison’s novel, Jazz], seen through the eyes of a wise-weary narrator…” (1).

One reason that a novel like Jazz is difficult to read is that it is not narrated by the “wise-weary” woman that most readers assume it is, as explained in a past post from October 24, 2013, which quotes Morrison:

Who Wrote Toni Morrison’s Jazz?
In a previous post, I quoted Toni Morrison as saying that her characters are autonomous, but she keeps them under control, since, ultimately, it is her novel, not theirs. In terms of multiple personality, the narrator is Toni Morrison, and the characters are her autonomous, alternate personalities.

However, according to Toni Morrison, she was not the narrator of her novel, Jazz. In other words, both the characters and the narrator were autonomous, alternate personalities. To quote Toni Morrison:

“So, when I was thinking of who was going to tell this story…I was looking for a voice…

“So, then the voice realizes, after hearing other voices, that the narrative is not going to be at all what it predicted. The more it learns about the characters (and they are not what the voice thought), it has to go on…I’ve done this in other places but not as radically as here. The thing is, I could not think of the voice as a person; I know everybody refers to “I” as a woman (because I’m a woman, I guess), but for me, it was very important that the “I”…never sits down, it never walks, because it’s a book. The voice is the voice of a talking book…It’s a book talking, but few people read it like that…

“…so no one’s in control.”

So, who wrote Jazz? According to Toni Morrison, it was, subjectively, psychologically, not Toni Morrison. It was, call it what you will—a voice, a book, an alternate personality—a psychological entity other than the one who goes by the name of Toni Morrison.

I am writing this blog, because when writers say things like that, most people don’t hear and respect what they say. But I do. And I hope you will, too.

1. “Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison Speaks about Her Novel Jazz,” an interview by Angels Carabi, 1993. Reprinted in Toni Morrison: Conversations, edited by Carolyn C. Denard, University Press of Mississippi, 2008, pp. 91-97.

October 23, 2013
Pervasive Split Personalities
quotes are from Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison’s Novels. Philip Page. Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1995.

“The trauma of racism is...the severe fragmentation of the self” (Morrison, “Unspeakable”) (p. 26).

“With her exploration of splitness, Morrison renders the dividedness of the American and African-American cultures: objects are split, bodies are split, psyches are split, families are split, neighborhoods are split, a race is split, a nation is split” (p. 31).

“...the African-American perspective is always at least double, and because the American cultural body is always already fragmented, the American consciousness is inevitably multiple, and the human condition is caught in the endless play of alternatives” (p. 36).

“Pecola [The Bluest Eye] is thus driven to the double division of a split personality and a pariah. Since to a lesser degree most other characters suffer the same double division, the novel implies the inevitability of this pattern: intense external forces (especially racial, economic, and familial) severely strain the characters’ personalities, and in turn those divisions within characters tend to divide them further from others” (p. 51).
“Echoing the other splits, the narration is split among multiple voices.” (p. 53)

“The attempted fusion with another person is most fully exemplified in Sula and Nel’s relationship..Sula and Nel’s near merger into one consciousness …they have difficulty distinguishing one’s thoughts from the other’s…” (p. 68).

“With his multiple identities, Son is a trickster figure, Morrison’s most recognizable one (p. 122)...Having so many identities that he ‘did not always know who he was’…” (p. 124)...Tar Baby is a polyphonic novel (Butler-Evans; Paquet) that has multiple centers and central characters (Rigney) and in which each character seems to have multiple selves (Kubitschek) (p. 132).

Of course, as readers of this blog know, multiplicity is neither unique to Morrison nor a product of postmodernism, since it pervades Dickens, too (see June 2013 post) and is an issue with most novelists to one extent or another.