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.
Goldstein is an atheist and so is her main character Cass Seltzer, thoughÂ both are more open-minded and less confrontational than the Dawkins/Hitchens ilk.Â The bookÂ packs in a lot of ideas and character and plot, probably too much, but I enjoyed it anyway.Â What reallyÂ 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 bubbeÂ drives her daughter, Cass’s mother, crazy.Â 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 calledÂ 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 representsÂ 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.Â For some reason, the online reviewsÂ do not fixate on this minor character butÂ focus instead on the book’s major themes!