There are neurotics such and you and me and the guy in the back seat of the bus who keeps blowing his nose. And then there are the Great Neurotics. From all walks of life they come, these Great Neurotics, from history and fiction and the entertainment arts they emerge, marching together, out of step, absorbed in their own thoughts, and in the way the breeze plays through their hair.
Here is today’s entry in this dubious gallery:
The French novelist spent the last 17 years of his life in his cork-lined room at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, in bed, writing. This neurotic fantasy come to life evolved as Proust, always sickly and nervous, found he simply could no longer stand the sounds and smells of life. Proust feared brain tumors and dizzy spells, he slept fully clothed, even including gloves, and he regularly burned choking amounts of fumigation powder in his room. He also licked the neurotic’s problem of how to fit everything on the bedside table: He had three tables within easy reach – one contained books, hot water bottles and handkerchiefs; the second held a lamp, a watch, pens, spectacles, notebooks and an inkwell; the third was for his Evian water and lime, coffee and ritual morning croissant. Naturally, Proust wrote obsessively (and in obsessive detail) about the past.