As we reported in our post of 9/10, the storyline we set up for The Jamais Vu Papers newsletter required a psychiatrist named Hector Glasco to bring his jaded celebrity patient, whom he referred to as Hilary, to a condition of wonder, to a state of jamais vu.
At the time, we were fascinated by the role of metaphor in Story (with a capital S). We felt that metaphor was more that just figurative speech, more than just analogy. What was the power of metaphor? We decided to play around with a fictive and admittedly silly idea: that metaphors are literally true, and that you could conceivably make a drug out of a metaphor.
So—Hector Glasco tried to cure his patient with a dose of a mystery drug called “M”—the chemical equivalent of a metaphor. Disaster ensued, and Hilary escaped from his office on a flying carpet and disappeared . The newsletter itself was Hector’s desperate plea for help; he needed insights into the nature of metaphor. We hoped that this premise would shake loose some interesting thoughts. We were right.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, author Tom Robbins was our newsletter’s first subscriber/participant. He wrote to us, agreeing to send us 8 answers if we’d send him 7 questions. Naturally our Hector asked him:
“As a master of figurative language, what do you think are the transformative and evolutionary properties of metaphors?”
Robbins gave this lovely answer:
“When we say that ‘Johnny runs fast,’ what have we said that anyone except Johnny’s mother is apt to recall? When we say that ‘Johnny runs like a deer,’ we have provided a memorable totemic image to which our notion of Johnny’s speed might conveniently be stapled. Should we say, however, that ‘Johnny is a deer,’ we have eternalized Johnny, fitting him with antlers and hooves from the unyielding deep forest of primal unconsciousness.”
Glasco pushed on, concerned about the use of such a powerful tool:
“What will happen if chemical metaphors hit the streets?”