Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

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B&W #5


Book Notes: Laura Lippmann’s Hush Hush

I’ve been reading this book at the same time as Sophie Hannah’s recent novel (because I have to grab whatever lies closest to me whenever I have a spare 10 minutes). The books belong to the same genre, the plots have clear similarities, yet it’s beyond clear that while Hannah is a profound, thinking individual and a great reader, Lippmann is so superficial that I feel vicarious shame for her. 

Compared to Lippmann’s two previous novels, Hush Hush is actually pretty great. But the plot fails, as always with this writer, because her insight into human psychology is at the level of a 9-year-old Snapchatter. 


A woman killed her daughter and her husband and tried to frame another daughter for her dad’s death. But she clearly loves her kids, concludes the protagonist who shares much of her life story with the author. Because moms always do. And anyway, it’s not ok to judge. Anybody can make mistakes.

And it’s all like this. There are also scenes of parenting by supposedly normal (i.e. non-murderous parents) that left me very baffled. I’ll keep reading this author because she writes about Baltimore, and I love Baltimore. But I keep hoping she reads a book or something, just to mix things up and gain a sliver of insight into something.

A Milestone

Wow, folks, I just drove a rented car for the very first time ever! I normally would get N to do it but the incentive was too huge. It was between going to the supermarket now or staring at an empty fridge in our hotel room in Florida until evening. And we all know that I’d drive a bulldozer on Jupiter to get food 5 minutes sooner. 

Paradise Next Door

The Indian restaurant posted the announcement saying that “on Thanksgiving day we will be open for lunch until 6 pm.” OK, do I really need to go to Florida? This sounds like paradise.

Is Anybody Looking for an Answer?

Somebody needs to do something to stop this horror that is devouring Mexico. OK, maybe the wall won’t work. It probably won’t. But what’s the alternative that is being proposed? To pretend it’s not happening and hope the voters won’t notice what it does to them as they listen to the vapid chatter about Russians and the rest of it?

B&W #4

Almost ready to travel!

Hoping for Trolls

Just got an email from something called Bold Democrats asking the question, “Do you want Bernie Sanders to run for President in 2020?”

I’m hoping it’s Putin’s trolls trying to sabotage Democrats 

Psychology of Democracy

Donald Winnicott, the great psychologist of early infancy, studied democracy from the psychological point of view. He said, among many other things, that the erosion of national boundaries, the idea of unchecked global flows, and the concept of a world government create extreme anxiety in psychologically healthy individuals. Boundaries are extremely important to a healthy psyche. The incapacity to tolerate boundaries is indicative of a whole host of psychopathologies. He wrote this back in 1949, or around that date, by the way. 

Also, he said that the idea of a woman in the highest position of political power in democratic societies is perceived as disturbing by many psychologically healthy individuals. It subconsciously returns them to the earliest memories of when the mother was the all-powerful entity in their lives, holding the power of life and death over them. (The awareness of the father as a separate being from the mother develops at a later stage). The desire to judge female politicians at the highest level by a different standard is neither malicious nor malignant. It’s simply a reflection of the journey that a human psyche makes in the process of its formation. 

To develop Winnicott’s idea, berating people for having these feelings reinforces the perception of their being in the presence of a scolding, disapproving mother. This is clearly counterproductive for a female politician. There is a whole field of study here waiting to be discovered that would come up with strategies to work with this reality instead of denouncing it. 

Another thing he said is that societies with a great number of healthy, normal, happy families are better at democracy than societies where unhealthy family dynamics are prevalent. 

These are just a few tiny observations on what is a complex and important work of a great psychologist.


A popular blogger writes about Trump:

He’s really good at being one of the worst humans ever to be born on this Earth. Everybody’s got one thing, I guess, and that’s his.

I’m sure this fellow is not completely alone in the world. There must be people who know and care about him. Why aren’t they telling him that he’s tripping all over the place and needs to do at least a few month of complete internet detox? Why are they so indifferent to a human being who is unraveling right in front of them?
It’s all very sad because there are many people who were not extremely stable to begin with, and irresponsible reporters and online chatterers tapped into this woundedness to make money and self-promote.


I was telling N something in Russian (well, obviously, it was in Russian since that’s the language we speak to each other). As usual, my delivery was loud and expressive, not to say intense. 

“So they just sat there, all quiet (тихие)!” I concluded. 

“Тихие! Тихие!” Klara suddenly repeated with a perfect pronunciation.

Then she thought for a bit and added, “Га, га, га!” This was a line from the only Russian nursery rhyme I sing to her (because it’s the only one I remember). She had figured out that I was speaking in another language and provided the only response she knew in it. 

On a different note, my crazy hair has come in useful. Klara has known the words “hair clip” and “hair tie” for months and can easily distinguish between the two. She also slaughtered at bath time the other day when she said, “I want lotion, Mamma. No, different lotion, please. Put lotion on tummy.” It’s almost creepy because she’s so small. 

And yes, I feel very vindicated because people used to stare at me like I was going dotty when they saw me address complicated speeches to an infant. Who was right this entire time, huh, suckers, huh? (I don’t mean you, blog readers. I mean the passersby who were freaked out by my behavior.)

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