In the year I met Anaïs Nin, 1966, I was at a turning point in my life; at 46, at the height of my profession, a professor at a leading medical school, patients coming to me from around the world. This had resulted from my doctoral dissertation, published in a medical journal, 1947, an experimental study that discovered the first successful treatment of contact ulcer of the larynx. By 1966, this progression was far from my early aspirations. I loved my work with voice problems, but my own voice yearned to speak. At nine, I had packed a bag, began to hitchhike to New York, to stow away on a ship to Paris for a life of writing, as I read Dorothy Thompson did from my same city of Syracuse. The drag back home and subsequent reproofs weakened my resolve.
In the Spring of 1966, I decide to give up everything, fly to Paris, begin a new life of writing. Everyone believed I had gone mad. Two friends only approved. A synchronicity: The Diary of Anaïs Nin, the first. Just published. I soared. A real writer in Paris. I wrote her a letter. She responded, invited me to lunch at her Greenwich Village apartment. Hugo made lunch, left us to talk for hours. She revealed a story to me about the psychoanalyst, Otto Rank, with whom she had worked. His life, she said, paralleled mine in a way. As a youth, he’d aspired to be a poet and playwright, turned instead to a practical medical profession. Years transpired in agony of suppression of his creative talents, struggle to sublimate them in psychiatric writing, ordering theories, advancing treatises about artists and writers among his patients. Rank regarded illness as a failed work of art. How true the story rang. Otto Rank died at 55 from an allergic reaction to sulfa drugs for a throat infection. Throat and voice. Death by sublimation of the creative demiurge into doctoring others? Rank had aided writers over blocks as I assisted speakers over laryngeal stress.
Such understanding of my problem by Anaïs Nin and her cheering me onward made the transition an exhilerative experience; the flight to Paris, entry into the creative life, fulfilled. Today, these 38 years later, I avow I would have been dead years ago had I not allowed my demiurge to flourish. Further, I am finding old age to be a beautiful new experience, writing and painting artist books, having museum and college art shows, and a new book published, ’05, Skryabin Mysterium. Enormous gratitude is still felt for the encouragement from Anaïs at that drastically disruptive time of my life.
16 July 2005