Friday, May 12, 2006

Jerusalem Syndrome

Who uses it: Psychiatrists and tour guides in the Holy Land
What it means: A psychiatric disorder that occurs among tourists in Jerusalem, in which they become obsessed with the idea of living a holy life or fulfilling a messianic prophecy. In most cases, it's harmless and temporary, and resolves itself once the visitor leaves Jerusalem.
How you can use it: To describe any place that goes to one's head.

Blogger is not showing me its usual toolbar this morning, so I don't know how to link to Anna's post (at, which gave me this term. She's in Washington right now, and it temporarily went to her head, as it tends to do. It goes to mine, too; on the last visit, particularly, I was thinking about whether and how I could live there again. It might yet happen, though not anytime soon.

Dizzy's going to the vet this morning for a check-up, and I have a newsletter to get out, plus my car to get serviced before the next set of trips.

What I Read This Week

Richard Reeves, A Ford, Not a Lincoln, Or Why There are no Leaders in Washington. This account of Gerald Ford's first 100 days as President is unkind and possibly unfair, though Reeves keeps repeating how much he likes Ford personally; it says a lot that one blurb on the back cover refers to it as "the most devastating hatchet job since Lizzie Borden" and "a superb exercise in venom." Nevertheless, it's hard to argue with Reeves' point, which is that American politics rewards politicians who forsake leadership for the sake of being liked. This book is as timely now as it was 30 years ago.

Martyn Waites, The Mercy Seat. The first twenty pages of this book include scenes of graphic violence and a realistic look at the life of a teenaged boy prostitute; it's brutal, but never feels exploitative. Joe Donovan, a journalist who's never been able to recover from the disappearance of his son, is pulled back into an investigation of corruption in his native Newcastle. Many people die horrible deaths along the way, but the ultimate message is that sometimes righteousness prevails. Powerful stuff, not for everyone.

David Lodge, Paradise News. David Lodge manages to pack so much into his comic novels. This funny story about a middle-aged man's near-accidental trip to Hawaii is also a loving examination of family secrets, religious faith, the grimness of modern tourism, and the power of love. Read this instead of going to Waikiki.


Anonymous said...

As someone who is about to shake the dust of this town off his sandals (and possibly salt some earth along the way), I find it tough to wrap my mind around a "Washington Syndrome." Maybe I've just been in the wrong jobs or the wrong neighborhood or the wrong crowd. I mean, I do not even know a single person well who is even so much as a lobbyist, let alone a legitimate policymaker or official.

And while the Mall and parts of upper, upper Northwest are monumental and historical and all, the majesty can pale when you have to step over a homeless guy at the bus stop just to commute to your windowless cubicle near the Lincoln Memorial.

Maybe I'm coming down with a case of Virginia Beach Syndrome.

AnswerGirl said...

Yeah, you've lived in "Washington, the Other," as Spalding Gray would have put it. It's walking the halls of Congress or the executive office buildings that cause Washington Syndrome.