The Talking Cure: A Memoir of Life on Air
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As a kid growing up in Queens, Mike Feder identified with Scheherazade of The Thousand and One Nights: "The idea of someone having to tell a new tale every night to prevent their head getting chopped off seemed sadly familiar to me."
Back then, the author's audience was his mentally ill mother, who used to stay in the house all day with the shades drawn, and then insist that her son tell her stories so that she might vicariously experience the world outside. Eventually she committed suicide, and Feder grew up to be a relentless, comic storyteller on the radio. The Talking Cure tells the story of his ridiculous jobs, first failed marriage, the string of psychiatrists, and the misery of reluctant fatherhood; throughout he maintains a kind of bizarre balancing act--hilariousness and deep seriousness, conventionality and strangeness. An ironist and a comic, Feder looks unflinchingly at his own foibles and frailties, enabling him to connect to other people's stories.
The reader emerges from this book with a sense of forgiveness for the human condition, and awe at the mystery of human life. Deeply funny, and at the same time breathtakingly dark, this is a book to provoke, amuse and, in some strange way, reassure: God loves a challenge.
failed to keep my appointments with him. 86 The Talking Cure CHAPTER SEVEN I escaped from high school with a seventy-two-percent average —just enough to win a berth in the freshman class at Long Island’s Hofstra University—a place populated by mostly middle-class, spoiled Long Island kids with—it seemed to me—not a lot of brains. Almost all of them drove new cars: Corvettes, Mustangs, and the like. It was a universe of football, basketball, and fraternities; crew cuts, loafers, sweaters, and
anywhere. I spent so much time masturbating, my vital member was turning into a raw frankfurter. I used to keep a big jar of Vaseline on the table next to my bed to keep from losing too much skin. One night about midnight after a multiple jerkoff it dawned on me: I must be homosexual. It was still four days till my appointment with Bernstein and I was terribly confused and upset about this new turn my life had taken. What was I to do? The next day at work, a woman I had a crush on (secretly, of
this fucking thing away from me!” I kicked the jacket across the room. “What stupid, brainless idiot would get me a pipe!? Did I ever say I wanted a goddamn pipe!? Did I?” Carol was mortified. She had 134 The Talking Cure never seen me like this. She dissolved in tears and ran out of the apartment. I sat there scratching like a fiend and muttering. An hour went by, two hours, three. It got dark and Carol still hadn’t returned. I felt the rankest, most stomach-wrenching guilt. 135 The
din’t do it!” “Oh, shit, get this asshole another shot.” One of them held him down, and another one left and came back with a nurse. The two orderlies held onto him while they stuck a needle in his arm. He was howling now, like an animal. The orderlies were angry he wouldn’t quiet down. “Shut up, man! Shit!” They held him for another minute or two, then he started to calm 159 The Talking Cure down, just mumbling now, half asleep but still in agony. His legs jerked, his head rolled, his lips
to my apartment in Brooklyn Heights. I couldn’t keep this half a life up forever, of course. I had to make the final leap back into adult life. I had to get a job. Carol worked, but what she earned wasn’t really enough and I needed a job to feel like I had some worth in the world. I applied for my old job as a New York City probation officer. In February, three months out of the hospital, I was notified that I was hired. I called Queens College and they told me I could start taking courses again