Adam Phillips Talks Wilde, Writing, and the Joy of Lacan
Paul Holdengraber in Conversation with the Renowned Psychoanalyst and Author
In part one of their conversation, Paul Holdengraber and renowned psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips discuss daily writing habits, Oscar Wilde, Jacques Lacan, and how our parents make us who we are.
Adam Phillips on why he writes…
I don’t really know the answer to the why question. I can only say that it gives me a great deal of pleasure. And I wasn’t one of these children who was always writing stories. Nor did I have any ambition consciously as an adolescent to be a writer. I really wanted to be a reader as I said to you before. And then, when I started writing, it’s almost as though it took, and something about it was fantastically pleasurable and exciting to me.
Adam Phillips on jokes, and “getting” jokes…
The incredible intelligence in jokes—or the incredible intelligent in Wilde’s jokes—is that it seems wonderful that you can both be amused, provoked, and intrigued, and kind of inspired. The reasons these quips work is because you get them and don’t get them at the same time. You’re aware that there’s more going on here than you’ve apprehended but there’s a lot going on. And the fact that they are, in a way, throwaway remarks, means you don’t actually throw them away.
Adam Phillips on how quoting people is a version of communal life…
The happily dependent part of oneself thinks, how wonderful it is to live in a world where other people have thoughts and feeling and say things that we couldn’t have thought of ourselves. And the unhappily dependent part of ourselves always thinks, shit why couldn’t I have thought of that. The unhappily part of ourselves being the envious, not liking the fact that other people have different experiences and so on. Well for me it’s like that. It’s a kind of pleasure at its best in the fact that there are a number of people, and it must be very selective, who have said things that I really once said, or I want to go on thinking about, or I want to share with other people. And that’s a version of communal life, and of tradition.
NEXT WEEK: ADAM PHILLIPS, PART TWO