Just read Darin Strauss's new novel, More Than It Hurts You, the story of a suburban couple under suspicion of Munchausen by Proxy, a novel that had me literally trembling at times with horror, squeamishness, and emotional recognition, a novel that had me calling Bill at his office in the middle of the afternoon to say, "I'm freakin' out, man; this book is freakin' me out." Of course, I've been eagerly awaiting this book since I heard what it was about -- why? -- OH, NO REASON -- and it was terrifically satisfying: really well-written, full of acute observations and a keen understanding of the potential motives behind MBP. Highly recommended for fans of Have You Found Her (also known as Have You A Foundling, Sir).
Then I went back to the Edith Wharton kick I've been on for the past few weeks, and read Ethan Frome. Dudes! Not to ruin the plot of Ethan Frome for you, but his wife Zeena totally has the Munch! Listen to this:
"He...wondered if she were turning queer. Women did, he knew. Zeena, who had at her fingers' end the pathological chart of the whole region, had cited many cases of the kind when she nursed his mother; and he himself knew of certain lonely farm-houses in the neighborhood where stricken creatures pined, and of others where sudden tragedy had come of their presence. At times, looking at Zeena's shut face, he felt the chill of such forebodings."
And not just Munch by Proxy -- sickly, crazy old Zeena's got a case of Munchausen Original Recipe, too:
"Within a year of their marriage she developed the 'sickliness' which had since made her notable even in a community rich in pathological instances. When she came to take care of his mother she had seemed to Ethan like the very genius of health, but he soon saw that her skill as a nurse had been acquired by the absorbed observation of her own symptoms."
Note the scare quotes around "sickliness" -- old Edie Wharton's calling that bitch Zeena out!
Again, I'd been prepared for the Strauss book, but nothing prepared me for a novella published in 1911 with a Munchausen plot. Now I'm going to have to go back and reread Wuthering Heights with a more critical eye -- tell me Catherine wasn't faking half that shit!