Promises Lovers Make When It Gets Late by Darian Leader
Promises Lovers Make When It Gets Late poses plenty of interesting questions and offers no real answers. Leader is very wary of ordinary self-help books believing them to do no more than help "yourself feel better about making the same mistakes" and so his book is informed throughout by a knowledge of the difficulty of truly knowing anything--an understanding bequeathed to him by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. (Adam Phillips' book Terrors and Experts provides a useful critique of the notion of knowing about knowledge). Notoriously difficult to engage with, Lacan is a remarkable, subtle thinker. He took structuralism and Freud and read them both back through each other asking us to take seriously again the issues of development and sexuality that we had grown tired of being fascinated by. Leader brings the French intellectual's ideas to bear on a number of "problems" in the relations between men and women and does so with stylish verve and wit. He is erudite, his references are wide and his writing is intelligent.
What are we saying when we make promises? Who are we really making promises to? What do promises really mean? What are their relationships to secrets? With Leader every presence masks an absence and vice-versa and at many levels: the woman lacks a phallus; the male lacks his mother (as sexual being and sole focus). Each lack is articulated in language which structuralism tells us is accidental and Lacan that it, too, is formulated via lack: we only speak of what we do not have. With this modus operandi we can re-view all that appears plain. A Lacanian reading is one that questions the given with reference to what the given must have taken away or covered up to appear. The Dutch cheese needs its holes. The Dutch cheese is its holes. Leader looks to Lacan and we could certainly learn much by reading his enjoyable, accessible book. We can follow his gaze but it must be a critical gaze. The call of the unconscious that we must surely take up is never to be a disciple.