The Talking Cure: A Memoir of Life on Air
As a kid growing up in Queens, Mike Feder identified with Scheherazade of The Thousand and One Nights: "The idea of someone having to tell a new tale every night to prevent their head getting chopped off seemed sadly familiar to me."
Back then, the author's audience was his mentally ill mother, who used to stay in the house all day with the shades drawn, and then insist that her son tell her stories so that she might vicariously experience the world outside. Eventually she committed suicide, and Feder grew up to be a relentless, comic storyteller on the radio. The Talking Cure tells the story of his ridiculous jobs, first failed marriage, the string of psychiatrists, and the misery of reluctant fatherhood; throughout he maintains a kind of bizarre balancing act--hilariousness and deep seriousness, conventionality and strangeness. An ironist and a comic, Feder looks unflinchingly at his own foibles and frailties, enabling him to connect to other people's stories.
The reader emerges from this book with a sense of forgiveness for the human condition, and awe at the mystery of human life. Deeply funny, and at the same time breathtakingly dark, this is a book to provoke, amuse and, in some strange way, reassure: God loves a challenge.
be sent to the Bureau of Child Guidance for counseling. To him, of course, this was punishment, not a desire to help. My mother and my aunt were summoned to school, and I was officially referred. About a week later I was told to report to a room in the basement of the school. I left class and went all the way down the stairs to where the locker rooms were, underneath the gyms. The note said, “Room B- 75 The Talking Cure 141, Mrs. Rosenzweig.” I had never heard of her. She wasn’t in the dean’s
dying, fear, and suffering—in fact, extremities of most every sort— have surrounded me since childhood. I was four years old when my sister was born. My mother had disappeared, it seemed like weeks before, and then suddenly reappeared, coming 12 The Talking Cure in the front door, moaning, crying, shaking. She was supported on one side by my father and on the other by my grandmother. Immediately behind my mother was a large, sour-faced nurse in a white uniform and hat, holding a white bundle
some tobacco she bought into the pipe. I lit up, took a deep puff. Coughing like a dying diva, I staggered into the living room, grasping blindly for the couch. I felt like throwing up. I lay there for a few minutes, then started to scratch. I felt like the temperature had suddenly risen fifty degrees. I yanked the tweed jacket off—I had been wearing a T-shirt underneath it—my neck, arms, and hands were covered in a bright-red, boiling rash. I finally lost my temper. I was shouting at her. “Get
drifted off for a split second and found myself leaning against the cold tile wall. I kept shuffling, cold in my hospital gown, looking for the bathroom. I got to the door of the bathroom and almost fell asleep again. I was standing in front of the urinal, pissing, and my eyes closed again. Next thing, I’m being jerked off the floor by the orderlies. They were pissed. I was pissed—literally. My hospital gown was soaked. They got me on my feet, disgusted, cursing: “Shit, I don’t need this trouble.
The Talking Cure Bismarck, on me. The dog jumped onto the bed, right on my chest, and commenced licking me like a maniac till I had to sit up and throw him off the bed. I sat in my father’s kitchen while he rustled up breakfast—my face pale, my hands cold and trembling. Everything, the dishes and silverware in front of me, the headlines in the morning paper, seemed overwhelming, or meaningless and sad. He grabbed some eggs from the fridge, slammed the door shut, and banged a big iron frying pan