I think the degree to which this resembles a sexual confession is not entirely coincidental. Learned (two-syllable pronunciation) papers and studies exist on the sexuality of guns, focusing always on the rather obvious phallic resemblance of the hand-held gun and the male organ; comfortable grip, extension, ejection, consequences of improper use … the list goes on.
The gun-confiscation paranoid mind-set is seen in these studies as — what else? — castration fear. And there’s the unfailing potency of the gun as a substitute for the failing potency of, well, you know. As Gore Vidal said, you can always get your gun up.
His father was most touched, Iyer speculates, by the observation that the truest enemy anybody confronts is internal, is one’s own self. His father died in June of that year. “The Man Within My Head” is the product of more than a decade of Pico Iyer’s reflections about the dual influences his father and Greene exerted upon him.
It’s peculiar, reading Iyer’s deeply felt revisitation of his own experiences and his recapitulation of Greene’s, to come across his comment that, “I’d never drunk; I never felt the need to escape unhappiness or bring new drama into my life.” One wonders why a man possessed of such equilibrium would feel an irresistible pull to someone like Greene — considering that Greene did drink, did feel the need to escape unhappiness and did foist so many dramas upon himself. But this seeming paradox doesn’t constitute a contradiction — or, at least, not one that exceeds the contradictory nature of any person’s self-image. It’s “only through another, sometimes,” Iyer writes, that you can “see yourself with shocking clarity. A real father is too close for comfort.”
Liesl Schillinger, “Pico Iyer’s Kinship with Graham Greene”
Read Schillinger’s NYTimes review of Pico Iyer’s recent memoir, The Man Within My Head. She makes wonderful connections and references that can only lead you to a deeper hole of worthwhile reading. Iyer will be coming to LIVE on February 7.