Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review the Young Adult Novel about OCD, Zelah Green: One More Little Problem

Vanessa Curtis's Zelah Green: One More Little Problem, is the next in this series about a teenage girl with OCD. The review copy came in the mail in the midst of my back going out, and I spent an afternoon in bed reading, which reminded me of much of my adolescence. Curtis has a good grasp of how stress can make rituals worse, and the double-edged sword of getting immediate relief of anxiety by doing the rituals, but the ultimate pain caused when they interfere with important things like friendship, love and family. I was moved by the description of Zelah holding her father's time for the first time since she was twelve, and how his skin felt.

Zelah's therapist, Stella, is concerned that Zelah is trying to take control of all the out of control things in her life during her summer "off"(which is anything but off from her anxieties), including her father being out of work, Caro from her time at Forest Hill showing up on the doorstep, and the most stable adult in her life, Heather, being out of the the country.
"Hmm," said Stella. "The thing is, Zelah, that none of the things happening in your house should really be your responsibility at all. I am not surprised your rituals are getting worse."
But for Zelah, calling her therapist if things get overwhelming seems alien. There's something about being that age, and just assuming that of course it's your responsibility, and the OCD compounding this by offering a glimpse of control, an illusion that if you do the rituals, the anxiety and fear will go away. Fortunately, Zelah also has friends, who help her make connections to both herself and to adults who can help.

Review of the first novel in the series:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Imperfection as Completion: What a Concept!

Marcel Duchamp sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Recently, I read about Marcel Duchamp's artwork at the Philadelphia Art Museum. The story goes that when he shipped it to the museum, the glass cracked in transit. When the museum told him about the damage he said, "Now it is complete." I've seen this Duchamp piece in the past, and I had assumed that the cracks were made intentionally, not because of an accident.

I started thinking about Duchamp's flexibility of mind, his willingness to accept what came his way. Most artists wouldn't have reacted like Duchamp I suspect. He was a pioneer in conceptual art, and was famous for putting a ready made urinal on display as sculpture. His art doesn't appeal to everyone, but I like this incorporation of imperfection into the whole.

I can just imagine that if I were Duchamp, and my perfectionistic OCD was in gear, I would've spent a lot of energy checking the cracks, visualizing how the piece looked before it broke and comparing it in my mind, reassuring myself that the fractures did enhance the piece, going over all the conversations with the museum curator verbatim, wondering if I really did believe the cracks completed the work, or whether I was a bad person for presenting myself as a conceptual artist when in fact I wasn't sure if it was truly conceptual. . .and on and on.

Checking perceived flaws consumed a lot of my time from my teens onward, from slightly off center buttons to one stitch bigger than the others or a tiny scratch. No matter how small the "flaw" it appeared huge in my mind, and took over my whole field of vision, and became all I saw. Exposures for this kind of perfectionism included wearing the shirt, and not checking the buttons, or listening to scripts I wrote about maybe never enjoying my item because of the scratch, that it would haunt me, and always be the first thing I saw, and then listening to it until I could tolerate it, and even accept it. Marcel Duchamp would've needed a script about whether art critics would degrade his work because the cracks were too disfiguring. . .but I don't think he had OCD, and there's even a photo of him standing proudly in front of the glass.