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BPD in Fiction

Speaking of books, I recently finished 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Despite the title, it’s a novel, and also despite the title, it’s an argument for atheism, the latest salvo in the New Atheism movement.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Goldstein is an atheist and so is her main character Cass Seltzer, though both are more open-minded and less confrontational than the Dawkins/Hitchens ilk. The book packs in a lot of ideas and character and plot, probably too much, but I enjoyed it anyway. What really intrigued me (go figure) was a character suffering from borderline personality disorder. She’s not only a character, she’s a mother! (See my memoir, Missing: Coming to Terms with a Borderline Mother.) A few pages in the middle of the novel reflect on the legacy of this disorder on a family. The sufferer is Cass’s grandmother.

Cass’s bubbe drives her daughter, Cass’s mother, crazy. Cass remembers screaming fights between them from his childhood. “He later learned,” Goldstein writes, “…what people with borderline personality disorder always do with their intimates: get their goats, push their buttons, pick at their vulnerable spots, draw them into destructive dramas that don’t let up until the borderline tastes blood.” Cass’s mother joins a support group called BOIL, for Borderline Offspring Injured Lifelong. (The book has a comic element.)

Cass, on the other hand, is his grandma’s favorite, and he basks in her adoration. She has unaccountably labeled his brother Jesse as “bad.” Here Goldstein represents the borderline’s dichotomous thinking.

So I’m wondering if Goldstein has a relative, possibly a mother?, in her past with BPD and speaks from personal experience. Haven’t seen a reference in her online interviews so far. For some reason, the online reviews do not fixate on this minor character but focus instead on the book’s major themes!

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