Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'll be eating a steak with Janet Malcolm, thank you very much...

Perpetual attention seeker, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, is featured in a New York Times article today about his new found veganism (and subsequent book).

If you've never heard of Masson, he was the subject of Janet Malcolm's truly great book (and possibly the greatest book ever written about psychoanalysts and what nuts they are) In The Freud Archives.

The article seemed a little bit of a waste of prime Times real estate, quite frankly. But I was slightly stunned at something: Masson was first a vegetarian, then a meat eater, now a vegan. But the thing that made him a non-vegetarian as a young adult was... (wait for it)... a can of tuna fish?!

Ugh! Woof! (For my thoughts on tuna, one should buy my book From Schlub to Stud. Barf!)

Now Masson's gone in the other direction entirely: full fledged vegan. (Although not as extreme as some vegans I know. I once lived with a woman in London who told me, with a straight face, that "There's a holocaust happening against cows.")

What's interesting about this, is that if you read the Janet Malcolm book, you know that Masson is a perpetually manic person. He started out as a sanskrit scholar, then switched to psychology. He embraced Freudianism fully, then he sought to destroy it. He clearly had feelings of affection for Malcolm, then tried to sue the pants off her. (The lawsuit, if memory serves, was a lot more complicated than would seem from today's article.)

This can be a very charming quality... until it's not. A quality of waxing and waning interests. And that's how he came off in the Malcolm book.

I sort of can understand why Masson was furious with Malcolm; not only can it be a non-charming quality, it can also be extremely pretentious and arrogant. (Which is how ITFA reads.) But somehow, I think after reading this Times article I come off with even more faith in Malcolm's account, thanks to this little nugget:

Masson and the author, Eric Konigsberg, are dining at a vegetarian restaurant where Masson "chatted with every member of the staff who came near, including a busboy he addressed in Spanish until the young man told him he was actually from Nepal. Mr. Masson began serenading him with the Bhagavad-Gita."