Emma LieberMar 31, 2021
The Writing Cure
In the hills north of Rome about a month ago I met a woman, a writer, so blown away by her Dottoressa, her psychoanalyst, that she announced to the surprise of all around her (surprised I want to add that she was in analysis in the first place) that she was writing a book about her treatment. I thought of H.D. I thought of Alison Bechdel. Then I thought of Emma Lieber.
The Writing Cure (Bloomsbury, 2020), Lieber’s first book, is a hybrid text—equal parts the work of an analysand, a new clinician, a scholar of Russian literature, and a divorcing mother. It is also the work of a Lacanian-influenced analyst whose analytic credential comes from an institute not especially associated with the work of Lacan; as such, the book functions as a kind of “pass”, a representation of what it is that the author wants to present to a community of analysts who she hopes will see her as a peer.
Her writing is creaturely by which I mean her words are close to the ground. She is funny. She is droll. She takes you into a nook and a cranny and your heart breaks. Always almost conversational, until she stops talking to you. The result is very beautiful and elusive. Her voice is precisely that: hers. She reveals but also conceals. The reader could want more. The reader could want less. But the reader is left wanting. How else can an analyst write about her own treatment but to tell the truth only to also tell it (a la E. Dickinson) a tad slant?
Embracing auto-theory as a burgeoning psychoanalyst is no simple task. Lieber refers to certain writers bearing this hyphenated moniker, among them Maggie Nelson, Paul Preciado and Barbara Browning but not her own analyst who is known for her use of the same genre. Of course reading about an analysis—like watching two people fuck in a car—can feel prurient: “I didn’t mean to look but then I could not turn away.” Lieber nevertheless finds a way to circumvent our voyeuristic wishes. We meet her and then again, we are left wondering; we are left to wonder—which is kind of perfect for a book written by an analyst about her analysis—about her. She remains through her final written utterances, a powerful transference-magnet.
Tracy Morgan is the founding editor of NBiP and in private practice in NYC and Rome, Italy She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.