Living Colorful Beauty

Living Colorful Beauty

ABOUT Jonathan Harnisch

Jonathan Harnisch
Author | Mental Health Advocate | Schizophrenia | Artist | Blogger | Podcast Host | Patent Holder | Hedge Fund Manager | Film & TV Producer | Musician



At the opening of Living Colorful Beauty, the reader is presented with two protagonists. There’s Ben, the narrator of the preface, who relates the story of the awful sex education classes he sat through in middle school and of his subsequent discovery of his father’s collection of pornography; and then there’s Georgie, a sexual submissive with a foot fetish, who is obsessed with his beautiful and manipulative next-door neighbor Claudia. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that Georgie and Ben share a single three-dimensional body. Georgie is a character in a novel Ben is writing, and Ben maintains that Georgie is in fact no more than a literary device. However, it is clear almost immediately that this is not the case. Throughout his life, Ben has received a number of psychiatric diagnoses, ranging from Tourette’s Syndrome to borderline personality disorder to schizoaffective disorder, and he displays some traits of all of these. Yet amid all these diagnoses, the one thing that seems to have slipped under the radar thus far is his tendency towards emotional dissociation, which is closely related to post-traumatic stress syndrome. It is this dissociative tendency that has led Ben to create Georgie, a safe repository for the emotions and desires – primarily sexual – that Ben himself is unable to process. Initially, therefore, the life of Ben and Georgie is fairly well ordered. It is clear from the start that Ben has issues relating to women: his romantic life has been a string of broken relationships and missed opportunities, and though he needs love desperately he finds himself overcome by fear around women. Whenever this issue arises, Ben retreats into Georgie’s relationship with Claudia. Claudia is compelling, manipulative, emotionally abusive, and tremendously sensual. She controls Georgie completely, only allowing him sex at certain times, alternately telling him she loves him and that she couldn’t care less about him, telling him she won’t sleep with him and then inviting him to watch her sleep with other men and other women. Yet Georgie is inextricably drawn to her, accepting all of the emotional pain that comes with his relationship with her as long as he can continue to hope that she may sleep with him again. The sex they share is gritty and fetish-laden, with strong overtones of sadomasochism and violence, and their relationship itself is sustained entirely by Georgie’s obsession. Yet he is unable to let Claudia go. Similarly, Ben claims that Georgie’s relationship with Claudia is based on his own relationship with Heidi – yet as the story progresses, we learn that Heidi is a lesbian whom Ben met once some months ago when she was in town for a conference, and that after one night, she left town and Ben had never heard from her again. In Ben’s relationship with Heidi, mirrored in his imagining of Georgie’s relationship with Claudia, it is clear that his interest is not in Heidi but rather in the image of Heidi, which, in the absence of the real Heidi, Ben can mold into whatever he needs her to be. Heidi is the locus of Ben’s obsession, as Claudia is the locus of Georgie’s; however, the root of these obsessive tendencies lies somewhere else entirely.