October is about big ideas, says Emran Mian
October brings books about madness, extinction, deceit, self-deception, viral storms and human nature. The last twinkle of summer is over. Now it’s the Thinking Season, the Hunker Down Brooding Season. But seriousness is no bad thing. Even sitting beside a swimming pool on holiday, we remember that this world contains attics and basements too. Yet these books have another, more disturbing quality: they approach their subjects too directly.
The latest from psychoanalyst Darian Leader is called What is Madness? (Hamish Hamilton, £20). I would like to know of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked the question in the form of the title. I might have asked: Am I going mad right now? Is she mad? Is she mad in the same way as me? Is she free on Thursday night? My questions differ from Leader’s leading question not only because, when it comes to the topic of madness, I want a novel to tell me about it, not a non-fiction/psychology, but also because I assume that what we think about madness changes from person to person, as well as over time. Ultimately, the book implies that Leader thinks the same, yet he begins with the general question, as if this is what his ambition requires him to do. Or perhaps it’s a sign of the season—story-telling and insight is too summery. October demands a thesis.