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Reading Key

Chloé Delaume

Translated from the French
by Dawn M. Cornelio

My name is Adelaïde Blanchard. I’m 37 years old. I was trained as a Lacanian psychoanalyst, but I’m what they call a bibliotherapist. I heal with books, well, with reading. I prescribe readings. Excerpts of works that are comforting, pages of novels that are reassuring. Stanzas that calm, lines of verse that energize. Thick tomes that put the reader to sleep, pamphlets that get them excited, essays that get things under control. Esthetic experience and neuronal circuit. Literature as a tool and poetry as a remedy. I’ve been practicing for almost 5 years. Usually, I do my best. I have a pretty good reputation.

I use all available Media, whether paper and digital: the reading experience is not just about content. A leather-bound volume can have an effect just like an e-reader can. The five senses are useful for good projection. The subject is fragile, sometimes not very concentrated, their psyche is porous to the environment. The type of interface has to be a match.

Typography is another factor, that plays into the dosage. A balanced font is like a classic alexandrine, it has soothing virtues. In my field, Book Antiqua is linked to tranquilisers, and Comic Sans to strychnine, but that’s true everywhere. I use short-term therapy, I have little patient follow-up. So, of course, I didn’t see the problem coming at all.

My specialty made the cover of the Nouvel Obs two months ago. Bibliotherapy: Getting Better with Books. And more than just books: reading techniques, as well. I have an interview on one page and my picture opposite. I explain my work, that I combine the medium and the content for an optimal result, electroshock or harmonisation. I give examples, too. Rather than a cognitive-behavioral therapy, I use a frontal approach to fight phobias. Total darkness and a backlit e-reader. To get over vertigo, Frison Roche’s First on the Rope High Tower Text. For fear of clowns, Stephen King’s It, unabridged, in Curlz. I even talk about a therapy that’s still in the experimental phase, getting over social phobia by trolling on Twitter with quotes from the Duc de Saint-Simon’s Memoires.

In hindsight, of course, the exposure was a big mistake. The journalist gave it the title Blanchard the Healer, stating “she succeeds where all other therapies have failed.” I just worried a little about some gnashing of teeth from certain colleagues. There are so many alternative therapies nowadays, competition is tough, you have no idea. Yet it’s obvious, “Blanchard the Healer” was doomed from the start.

My office is in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, always busy, but since the article came out, I admit, I’m snowed under. Especially since I have cases that I never treated before. Blanchard the healer brought me all kinds of new patients. Completely different profiles. Until now, I got mostly seasonal affective disorders, very slight neuroses, some post-traumatic syndromes. A lot of melancholy. I get very good results with melancholy. With Emil Cioran in Calibri 12 on a tablet, ten aphorisms at bedtime, five first thing in the morning. It works. People want it to work, my therapy has been proven. That’s why they don’t come back, they don’t need to come back, and I, of course, forget them.

What my captors reproach me for is having failed them. Countertransference patients should never read The Count of Monte Cristo. I made mistakes, including the diagnosis. I paid, and a very high price at that, for my ethical failings. I didn’t know that people dissatisfied with bibliotherapy had a thread on the Doctissimo forum. That’s where they met. And where their idea has sprouted. They pu…