I visited him three times. The first visit we spoke about T. S. Eliot’s play The Cocktail Party and the character he reminded me of, a sort of spiritual psychiatrist: a no-nonsense male authority figure with T. S. Eliot’s world-weary deep rueful skeptical intellect, the waspish sting neutralized by Anglican gentleness with a smile of resignation. It was a scary but fascinating ordeal–talking to him, I mean. The fact that his first name was Eliot may have had something to do with it. I went home and re-read the play and I saw it performed on Broadway and in London’s West End. When I talked to him about it, I realized that one out of every ten of Eliot’s analysands is a martyr in the making, preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice in a South American revolution or a famine in Africa. “One out of ten,” Eliot agreed. “But not you and not me.” The third time I visited him we played a game of free association. He would say “death wish” and I would say “pleasure principle” and then we reversed roles, and I would say “pleasure principle” and he would say “death wish.” The sessions had a profound effect on me. It was after the last visit that I understood that these two impulses, the death wish and the pleasure principle, meet at the point of orgasm. From this insight everything else followed: job, wife, children.

David Lehman
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