Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

“Art of Killing—the Literary Merits of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” by Joel T. Terranova; The International Journal of Comics, Fall 2008.
-01-It is a work of comedy that makes great use of traditional literary devices, such as satire and irony, in order to brutally ridicule for the purpose of self-correction.
-02-This is a fairly damning commentary as it implies that those who are content with their lives will do ultimately nothing as they have no desires or needs in the first place. The overall impression of Heaven is that of an illogical place that has no rationale or purpose; the satirical nature of its treatment in this book is ultimately to warn the reader against placing too much faith into something they have yet to experience as it most likely is not going to meet those anticipated expectations.
-03- [Regarding pedophiles and murderers] …and should therefore not be treated as different, because doing so only attaches more value to them than what they deserve and also deludes those of a younger and more impressionable mindset into being terrified by a type of individual who is really more sick and pathetic than anything else. Of course, this revelation of truth can also be applied to other social miscreants, such as serial killers, like Johnny. The issue raised by this part of the comic is incredibly important as it points out that vile individuals should be recognized for what they are, not what public imagination tries to transform them into because that gives them more worth than they warrant.
-04- [Johnny] is an extreme caricature of many people who almost seemingly reject the concept of being happy in exchange for continued existence in their own misery-ridden world. Johnny admits [that he’s not happy] , yet he is unwilling to do anything that would allow him to be truly happy.

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn
001. If you have been privy to a violent childhood, then you know the terrorizing effect that being anywhere in the vicinity of a loud and aggressive male (or many loud and aggressive males) has on your mental stability, and, if you haven’t, then lucky you.
002. p54. Tall ivory candles ensconced in gold sparkled from their place on the mantelpiece. The hearth itself was so large I could have walked into it on my toes were I so inclined. On the left of the fire, richly upholstered chairs were assembled casually around a tea table set with bone china and laden heavily with delicacies almost too beautiful to eat. Cakes stacked high and frosted with swirls of icing and lemon drops were flanked by tiered trays of strawberry tarts; a plate of biscuits glittered with coloured sugar; exquisitely sculpted marzipan fruits lay arranged in clusters; chocolates wrapped in crisp gold paper were tucked into every chink in this display, heartbreaking to a hungry captive.
003. p68. …I had learned to experience fear without actually being afraid, and I never took my eyes from his…
004. p72. I shall describe to you, Diary, the Bloodletting Wing: It is a vast, open room lined with row after row of metal beds on wheels. The beds are fitted with thick leather straps and rusty buckles. Upon the walls hang medical tools of a decidedly medieval appearance; upon entering, I was quite overwhelmed by the sheer variety of blades, needles, hammers, and other contraptions I did not recognise but could hardly envision approaching a human body, to say nothing of healing it.
‘How extraordinary,’ I thought, ‘that a veritable host of diseases can be so easily cured by the draining of the patient’s blood…’
In truth, Diary, it is a miracle! Headache?  Too much blood. Melancholy?  Impure blood. Misbehaving?  Poison in the blood.  Fainting from too much bleeding?  Bleed from more. Any ailment, real or imagined, is subject to the same treatment, and, in a manner of thinking, I suppose it is ingenious: Bleed a girl to within an inch of her life, and she hasn’t get the strength to cause trouble. Is this how a staff of thirty manages a thousand inmates? Well done, gentlemen.
005. p73. I had asked him from whence the leeches came.
‘These slippery little bloodsuckers begin their lives in your lakes, your swamps–that sort of place. Little boys and little girls, just like you, are sent bare-legged into the water, and there they wait for the leeches to bite into their flesh and hold tightly.’

‘When their legs are covered with the parasites,’ the Doctor continued, ‘the children, what we call “leech-catchers,” are finally allowed to come out of the water. Then, after the leeches have had as much blood as they can drink, they fall right off would you know, and the leech-catchers go back into the swamp and do it all over again. Would you like to be a leech-catcher, little girl? You could make a peeny a week, you could.’
006. p73. The very worst of it was the way that the Doctor removed the leeches from the old woman’s flesh by pouring salt over their delicate skins; he said he hadn’t the time to wait for them to detach on their own as he had several more leechings to perform that day. The salted bodies recoiled and fell onto a very nice china saucer that the Doctor held below them; he had taken the saucer from beneath a teacup placed upon a nearby table–an act I thought uncommonly rude. Horrified, I watched as the fallen leeches gushed forth every drop of the blood they had just swallowed, and writhed in obvious agony as their skins dissolved.
007. p80. How is it that it is considered perfectly acceptable that I am harmed by a dozen outside forces, in a dozen ways, from abuse, from rape, from the mundane cruelties of life that affect us all, from brutal heartbreak, from violent lovers, from dishonest friends, and yet  I have no right to harm, even superficially, myself? Everything that is done to me from the outside–all of that I am expected to ‘get over’ and ‘forgive’, and I can even pay a therapist hundreds of dollars an hour to teach me how to do this (there are a lot of people making money off of my pain). But I am not allowed to forgive myself, even if I wanted to, because no one will forgive  me .
008. p85. If anything is perverse, it is nature’s demand that a girl should see so much blood in the first place, and quite against her will. And, what’s more, this ‘precious’ body, the very same that is hooted and honked at, demeaned both in daily life as well as in ever existing form of media, harassed, molested, raped, and, if all that wasn’t enough, is forever poked and prodded and weighed and constantly wrong for eating too much, eating too little, a million details which all point to the solitary girl, to  every solitary girl, and say
009. p86. If I stop, which I hope to god I can do someday if for no other reason than that I don’t like having to rely upon  anything –I’ve never done a drug in my life–I’ve never smoked. I’m fond of alcohol just as much as anybody else, but not more, and I wouldn’t care if I never had it again–I’d have a much more difficult time living without tea to be perfectly honest.
010. p111. [Regarding bathing–the girls are queued up and disrobed and they try to prod one another into a line of ten to be doused with frigid water. Some girls are so mentally ill they don’t realise they are supposed to step forward to be hosed down.] Should this not succeed, the disobedient girl is dragged away by heavy-handed attendants to the Hydrotherapy Chamber. Here, the wretch will be submerged in icy water. If she reacts and struggles to breath, then the treatment is deemed a success, and there are congratulations all round, never mind the near certainty that the patient will die shortly afterwards from cold-induced illness. If she happens to drown and so does  not react, then the patient is considered to have been just another of the many ‘incurables,’ and, as such, her death is no great loss.
This reminds me terribly of the witch trials of old I had read about years ago where a girl suspected of being a witch would be bound hand and foot, then dropped into deep water. If the accused floated to the surface and did not drown, then she would be proclaimed a witch indeed and burned alive. If, however, she did not float to the surface and drowned as any mortal creature surely would, then the girl would be proclaimed innocent and not a witch after all. Of course, since she was quite dead by then, it seems to me to have been something of a ‘lose/lose’ state of affairs.
011. p124. There is something that I realized about society long before I was committed, and it is that people are rabidly fascinated by tales of life inside of a mental institution. This is a phenomenon that stretches back hundreds of years, as evidenced by the numerous observer reports of lunatic asylums throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries all the way up to the plethora of books written about these institutions and the lives inside of them even now, not to mention movies depicting it all.
Why is this?
I believe it is because an asylum is a parallel universe with its own rules and social structure, and is therefore different and interesting, but also because people want to know if they could ever end up here as well. It is the same reason why people are so disturbingly obsessed with celebrities, their relationships, their ups and downs, their eating disorders… ‘Am I like them?’ people wonder, half revolted by the idea that they could be, half wishing that they were.
People aren’t just reading–they’re measuring the distance.
If I ever get out of here, I wonder if I will write about it. And, if I do, will I disclose all? Am I brave enough?
Oh, who the fuck am I kidding? I’ll tell people more than they  ever wanted to know. I’ll never shut up.
012. p126. What’s the big fucking deal? Lots of amazing people have committed suicide, and they turned out alright.
013. p129.  To the whole world : You trivialize our suffering. You say we take the ‘easy way out,’ and yet you fall on your swords for less and call it honourable.
014. p130. In the makeshift classroom where we lunatics are forced to sit together in circles and draw pictures in finger paint (not because anybody thinks this helps us, but only so that they can observe how we ‘socialize’ with each other, as though being able to socialize with other lunatics is any indication of whether or not one is ready and able to function in the outside world)…
015. p131. I can’t stop…I never can once I’ve been pushed too far, which probably accounts for my ever delightful exterior–I’m holding it in for fear of what will come out if I let go; there are no brakes on this car…
016. p133. There is something that goes on in the minds of many manic depressives when entering into either a manic or depressive states (as opposed to a simple state or normalcy which, believe it or not, does exist) that nobody claims to understand, but that many bipolars in the far corners of the world can attest to, and that is the consistent waking up at four o’clock in the morning. And when I say four o’clock, I mean four o’clock  on the fucking dot.
017. p152. About Vultures: Scavengers of the Sky
Vultures smell bad.
The vulture has no voicebox, thus no birdcall, but, when angry, it makes a sound very much like a steam engine.
All the time that vultures are soaring over an area, they are searching for the scent of decay that will lead them to food.
When aloft, vultures flap their wings very infrequently, giving them their eerie, suspended appearance.
The vulture’s bald head enables it to plunge into a gory carcass and emerge relatively clean.
A group of vultures circling in the air is called a ‘kettle’
A flock of vultures is also called a ‘wake’ (for obvious reasons, and quote humorous, I think)
Like its ancestor, the prehistoric raptor, the vulture is silent until it attacks.
018. p158. There has been a shortage of leeches imported from France, their primary breeding ground, and so the Asylum must be more frugal in its use of the creatures. The salt murders have been replaced by other practices no less barbaric.
To begin with, the leeches are now used several times over, and so may live long and useful lives, which would be lovely for all were it not for some blatantly unsanitary aspects of this leech-sharing that seem bloody obvious to me, but are entirely unapparent to Dr Lymer. For example, the blood sucked from one girl is inevitably mixed with the blood of the next. Now, not that I know much of medicine, but it seems to me that, if the blood is the carrier of all our ills, would we really be wise to spread it around between us? In addition, the leeches are encouraged to consume more blood than they naturally would care to, thereby reducing the amount of leeches needed for each patient. In order to allow the leech to keep drinking, the Doctor does one of two things: He either presses the body of the poor thing, forcing it to vomit up everything it has just ingested and causing it to start back at the beginning, or he makes easy work of it but cutting off the tail so that the blood can flow directly through the body and out the other end, leaving it eternally feeding, yet never satiated.
019. p167. Ah, cutting…isn’t cutting something that attention-starved teenagers do, an act that lies within that fuzzy gray area between a cry for help and a desperate attempt to look dangerous, and, therefore, cool? So, how in the fuck did I end up locking myself in the bathroom several times a day razorblade in hand?
020. p184. Chloroform was ready and available for use as an anesthetic to relieve some of the discomforts inherent in childbirth as early as 1847, but Scottish clergymen objected to its use, insisting that the pain of childbirth was ordained by God, and, as such, must not be lessened by any means. It was only in 1853, whe Queen Victoria herself chose to be chloroformed for the birth of her son Prince Leopold, that the church  finally shut up about it. Fucking motherfucking fuckers.
021. p197. ‘When one’s life has been besmirched by such pain, such horror,’ I asked them all, ‘is it so impossible to imagine what dreams may come being better than this, and the chance of that quite worth the taking?’
‘But what if there is nothing else? No afterlife at all?’
‘Then perhaps I shall get a good night’s sleep at last.’
022. p214. Nothing in my life has ever made me want to commit suicide more than people’s reaction to my trying to commit suicide.
023. pp217-8. Depression is a rather rude houseguest: Depression rarely calls ahead to see if it’s a good time, and Depression never arrives alone. Depression brings its friends–Despair, Self-Injury, and Suicide–wherever it goes, and it doesn’t check in advance to insure that extra beds are made up and waiting, for they will take YOUR bed and leave you lying on the floor you haven’t had the will to scrub in months. Depression doesn’t have the valet bring over an extra supply of tea and biscuits in anticipation of its arrival. No, Depression and its friends will barge right into your quiet, cozy home, spill your tea, smash your best teacups, devour all of your favorite biscuits, and then vomit them up again because Depression has no appetite. You might think that, without any appetite, Depression and its friends would become weak, shrivel up, and die; you could then pass them out of your body much as you would an early-term miscarriage–something hardly noticed. You may experience some heavy cramping of the abdomen, or perhaps, in this case, the mind or the heart, but then you would see the blood flowing, the blood that serves to pass that which is to be expelled. You see the blood flowing to within an inch of your life, and you think, ‘ Yes, oh god, yes! That which I do not want within me is being washed out, cleansed away, and soon I will belong to myself again! ‘ But there is always something you are not supposed to see–something that gets in the way and dirties things up just a little. Actually, you  are supposed to see it, but you’re not really supposed to SEE it. I’m talking of course, about the remains. Blood and membrane. Tissue. Me. And not me. These are the remnants of Depression and its bedfellows, and the things is that you have to check yourself, your underthings, your bed sheets, just to make sure they’ve gone. But that’s just it: You have to see them on the way out, and that’s just too much for some people. Some people take so long saying goodbye to Depression and its friends that they get used to having them around. They have begun to enjoy cooking for their guests, secretly looking forward to the spontaneous (or not so spontaneous) get-togethers, and have completely lost the desire to sleep in their own beds, the floor having been quite as comfortable as they feel they deserve, which isn’t very much, as it turns out. So, then, when you feel the blood pouring out of you, and you begin to see the things you were told to look for, you become frightened at being alone. You haven’t had a moment’s peace in months, but  now you’re afraid to be alone. Ridiculous, isn’t it? If you don’t spend a Sunday night curled up in a ball and crying on the bathroom floor, what on earth  will you do with it? It’s simply too daunting.
024. p218. Untreated, or unsuccessfully treated, depression is considered to be a terminal illness. No joke. Depression is the invisible Plague. Like carbon monoxide, you can’t see it, hear it, or smell it, but, if it gets you, you may just never wake up.
025. p218. …what is depression of  any sort but Death crossing over into Life and infecting it with nothingness?
026. p224. If part of you dies, can you be haunted by that part? It is generally accepted that, if someone dies badly in a particular house or other location, the spirit of the dead will likely be there still, haunting the house and its occupants.
Could the same be true of us, of our own lives? If part of your dies, can you haunt yourself? [reminds me of Dickinson’s One need not be a chamber to be haunted]
027. p257. Revenge itself may indeed be the best revenge, but slaying your enemy does not give you back what they stole from you. There is not enough revenge in the world for that.

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