"Yes, but what has He done for me lately?"as the religious sceptic might say to the Lord after being told that He sent His Only Begotten Son to save mankind. The trouble with blogging is that no matter how brilliant you were yesterday, you need to come up with something to say today. Under this pressure, it is only natural to see accidental conjunctures as divine hints.
Yesterday, as I was intermittently listening to the comments about Anthony Weiner's truly extraordinary press conference, I began reading John Sandford's latest novel in the Lucas Davenport series. Sandford is a reliable and very successful writer of schlock police procedural fiction somewhat implausibly set in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I have read a dozen or more of his novels, and find them a completely satisfactory way to waste time. So what is the connection?
A few words of explanation are called for. Weiner first. Anthony Weiner was a New York Congressman of no noticeable accomplishments but with an ego unusually large even for a politician who was discovered to have been "sexting selfies" to huge numbers of women with whom he was totally unacquainted. I employ the current jargon, unfamiliar as I am with it. "Sexting" is what Lewis Carroll called a "portmanteau" word, formed in this case by conflating "texting" and "sex." It is apparently the method of flirtation of choice among the underage crowd with nimble thumbs. In Weiner's case, the sexting consisted of sending out full frontal nude photos of himself [selfies], followed by lewd messages to those bored or foolish enough to respond. His most faithful correspondent seems to have been a twenty-two year old woman. Weiner, we now learn, used the internet handle "Carlos Danger," but the young woman says she knew it was the Congressman all along. Weiner was finally prevailed upon by his Democratic colleagues in the House to resign, whereupon, as one has come to expect, he sought "therapy" and for a New York minute fell out of the public's sphere of attention. Now he is back, running for the Democratic nomination for Mayor of New York. But the day before yesterday, we learned that Carlos Danger was still cyberflashing, by his own admission, at least up until last summer, a year or more after he had "put it all behind him" and "moved on."
And now Sandford. In Silken Prey, we are introduced early on to the villain, Taryn Grant, a beautiful, rich candidate for the Senate on the Democratic ticket who is described by the omniscient narrator as suffering from "narcissistic personality disorder." Sandford clearly leans to the left, politically, so it is an act of authorial courage for him to make his villain a pro-choice pro-union Democrat with ... narcissistic personality disorder.
I take it that the conjuncture is now obvious. What is fascinating about Weiner is his all-consuming limitless narcissism. What on earth would possess a skinny not particularly good-looking man with a long hooked nose to take nude photographs of himself and then send them to, by one estimate, forty-five thousand women? He does not seem to have requested nude photos of them in return. What turns him on, it would seem, is --in Dickenson's lovely phrase -- telling his name the live long day to an admiring bog. After his original confess-all press conference, in which he vowed to get treatment, he apparently went back to his room and spent hours watching the coverage of his humiliation. The day after New York magazine published a cover story about his tearful, traumatic rehabilitation, he contacted the twenty-two year old recipient of his nude photos to ask whether she had seen it and what she thought. At this second press conference, it was clear from his face and body language that he was getting more gratification from being the center of attention than pain from having once again to admit that he was still engaging in "inappropriate behavior."
Psychoanalytically speaking, narcissism is, I think, an unusually early erotic pathology, anterior even to oral or anal fixations. According to some versions of the myth, Narcissus saw his reflect in in a pool and fell in love with it, dying of a broken heart when he realized that he could not have the object of his affections. One can only hope that Weiner stumbles across a mirror.