Excerpt from the Book
The House of Inspection
Long ago a prison was designed, the Panopticon. Prisoners would be isolated in separate cells that were organized like a stack of rings around a central tower. By special devices the inspector in the tower would be able to see each prisoner but the prisoners would not be able to see the inspector. The prisoners could never be certain whether they were being watched or not. This combination of isolation and the sense of being observed was to lead to moral reflection and rehabilitation. Versions of the Panopticon have been constructed from time to time; the latest and most uncompromising was the experimental women's prison at A——.
I awoke in despair. Outside the window that was the transparent inner wall of my cell, the obsidian black of the Tower greeted me with its impenetrable gaze. Another aimless day began.
I was used to austerity. A spy, I had thrived on it, alone and patient. In those days I had been the hidden one; concealment was my pleasure and my power. Now I was the one who was spied upon, by unseen guards within the Tower. Microphones detected every sound. It was unbearable. My only wish was for suicide, which, of course, was denied me. I could not force myself to get up. I closed my eyes again.
“The House of Inspection” appeared in its entirety in Tikkum,
Vol. 17, No. 6, November/December 2002
Philosophie Thinly Clothed and other stories
by Heather Folsom
Cover art by A. Shapiro
First edition 2005
251 pages, 4¼" x 8¼"
A collection of 42 short stories by first-time Bay Area author, Heather Folsom. Allegories and moral tales in a distinctive new voice. The author, a psychiatrist, draws on her experience and fascination with the hidden world of unconscious meanings and motives.
About the Book
From a nationally televised interview with Perry Peltz:
Q: “What would you like people to be thinking about after they finish reading your book?"
A: “I think sometimes new metaphors, new images, shift one's thinking in subtle ways. Ultimately I would hope that people would become more confident of the worth and merit of moral questioning and take that to heart, to make it a better world . . ."
BREAKFAST WITH THE ARTS, A&E TELEVISION STUDIOS NYC
I was recently sent a review copy of a book of stories, Philosophy Thinly Clothed. The author, Heather Folsom, is a “writer and psychiatrist living in the San Francisco Bay Area” . . . The book is like a clear, personal, supremely literate message from Mars. One wonders: Who IS this person? Why has no one ever heard of her? What in the world is she doing in these extraordinary, risk-taking tales? In the Acknowledgments page the author herself thanks a friend for “dissuading” her from her “goal of posthumous publication.”
The stories in Philosophy Thinly Clothed are marvelous, imaginative, funny, wild . . .
One of the most brilliant, enjoyable books I have read in years. . . . “The Rat Suit” alone is worthy of Kafka, and there are many other extraordinary tales.
None of these stories is “realistic” in the usual sense of that word: they are fables, allegories, “fictions” in the Borgesian sense. None of them is very long. Yet we have the sense throughout of a “reality” staked out, claimed, and named. They are inhabitants of a new yet utterly familiar psychic territory.
The stories are widely varied in subject matter. Many are complex and delicate in their feelings; all have amazing moments and odd twists of plot. (This is particularly true of the extraordinary “Mammæ Potentes”—“Breasts of Power.”) . . . Themes of magic, sincerity, watching, criminals, suicide, “revolutionary activity,“ friendship . . . emerge frequently. There are many moments of risk and escape . . .“The Last Criminal” . . . one of the finest in the book, contains perhaps the most remarkable passage ever written about the mother/daughter problem:
I had come to a decision: ice the kid. I couldn't keep having those dreams. The way the kid was headed, she would be trying bigger and bigger stuff. Until the kid would be the big criminal and I would be history, meaning no longer history. I had worked too hard and lived too long to let some punk kid steal my legacy. I had never iced anyone in cold blood before. Self defense a couple of times. Never a kid. This would wake everybody up alright. No more telethons for me.
In perhaps the finest story in the book, “The Rat Suit,” a woman becomes a rat, the very thing she most fears. My friend, the poet Jake Berry, remarked about this piece, “One thinks of Kafka, but in his story [“The Metamorphosis”], Samsa wakes up transformed. It happened to him. Here, the woman in the story makes it happen. It's horrific and powerfully affirmative at the same time.”
— Jack Foley
THE ALSOP REVIEW, KPFA RADIO BERKELEY, COVER TO COVER
From personal correspondence:
. . . These stories took me totally by surprise. They are luminous, fabulous, timeless, placeless. Tales of our Time I'd call them. In each I feel a powerful imagination at work, as well as the hand of a skilled writer. The tone and style is so consistent throughout, no easy feat. And, the way you compose a world of women is so deviously subtle and successful. These stories demand a wide audience . . . It is unlike any out there. Your only peer, it seems, is Kafka.
— Allen Hibbard
Philosophie Thinly Clothed and Other Stories by San Francisco-based writer and psychiatrist Heather Folsom is an eclectic, engaging, entertaining, and thoroughly impressive anthology of brief yet dramatic allegories, morality plays, and musings on humankind and the universe. Expertly written with a clear sense of viewpoint and irony, positively addictive to page through, and reflecting the author's varied experiences in psychiatry coupled with her undeniable insights into the human mind, Philosophie Thinly Clothed is a compelling, original, thoughtful and thought-provoking literary collection.
THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, REVIEWER'S CHOICE