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The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website

Novels

It's All In Your Mind

Originally published as "The Big Binge" in Imaginative Tales (July 1955), 93 pages.
Published as "It's All in Your Mind," Curtis Books (1971) (PB), 123 pages.

A Note on Spoilers!

This page contains a number of revelations about the novel "It's All In Your Mind" aka "The Big Binge" which may impair your enjoyment of the novel. Please do not read further unless you wish to have this information revealed to you.

Contents

  • Synopsis
  • Excerpt
  • Background
  • Commentary
  • Notes

    It's All In Your Mind Synopsis:
    Elmer Klopp, a painfully normal sophomore at the University of Hardnox, has no family or friends, is a failure at sports, and has a non-existant sex life. While seeking feminine companionship, Elmer is tricked into entering a Psychopathfinder, an invention of Professor Perry Noid. The Psychopathfinder is a a device designed to cure the mental aberations of its subjects; it "hypnotizes you, releases inhibitions, and harnesses the electrical energy of the brain to materialize supressed concepts that cause conflict..." (TBB 33). Once the patient's desires are fulfilled, so the theory goes, the internal conflicts causing his psychosis is alleviated, and he is cured.

    "It's All In Your Mind" peels back the layers of Elmer's psyche like an onion, exposing each neurosis by transforming Elmer, or allowing him to transform his surroundings. With repeated treatments, Elmer becomes, in turn, someone who causes others to loose their clothes when he glances at them; a drunk with a real pink elephant; a gorilla; and a room full of Elmers, among others.

    Will Elmer ever be cured? And if he is cured, will he survive the treatment?

    And if he does survive, will he ever get a sex life?

    Excerpt:
    In order to give the reader a taste of Bloch's prose in this novel, I have reproduced below the passage where Professor Noid (along with his niece, Ada Noid) explains to Elmer how he came up with the idea of the Psychopathfinder.

    "I finally came to the inevitable conclusion," the Professor was saying, as he ushered them into his study. "Psychiatric treatment, as normally administered, is largely useless. Anybody who goes to a psychiatrist ought have his head examined."

    The Professor sat down behind his desk. On the wall overhead, was a large sign reading SHRINK!

    "Fortunately I had an excellent background in the physical sciences. My work in shock therapy, electro-encephalography, stood me in good stead. I began to think of constructing a mechanical analyzer."

    "You mean a psychiatry machine?" Elmer asked, interested despite himself.

    "Why not? In effect, the so called Lie Detector is just that. True, its functions are limited, but it does effectively analyze certain psychic components. The cyberneticists, with their computing machines -- their mechanical brains -- gave me a further clue to the construction of what I finally came to call the Psychopathfinder." Professor Noid paused and milked his goatee with thoughtful fingers. "No doubt Ada has told you of my own personal theories of analytic procedure."

    Elmer opened his mouth, but Ada answered. "I explained everything," she said. "he knows a great deal about psychiatry."

    "Good." The Professor smiled. "How do you feel about the cathartic method?"

    "Never use 'em myself," Elmer said, truthfully. "Glass of hot water in the morning is just as effective."

    "True! I can see you've thought the problem through, just as I did. Ordinary analysis. even so-called depth-analysis, is just a waste of time. Removing inhibitions and psychic blocs by searching out the original causation buried in the subconcious is a lengthy procedure. Much easier to dramatize those suppressed desires and thus eliminate the personality defects."

    . . . .

    He rose and led them to a door set in the wall of his study. Producing a key, he unlocked it and opened the way into what proved to be a large and well equipped laboratory.

    "Why, this is quite a place!" Elmer marveled, glancing about the white-tiled room and noting the elaborate electrical apparatus, the leaping arcs and sputtering retorts.

    "Isn't it?" The Professor rubbed his hands languidly. "I could never have afforded to build it myself. I bought it second-hand from a Hollywood studio after they were through using it in a science-fiction movie. Got the whole thing for less than five thousand dollars, including two rubber Martains and an old Frankenstein's monster costume."

    (TBB, 18-19).

    Background:
    One of Bloch's lesser known works, "The Big Binge" was published in the sixth issue of the short-lived SF digest magazine "Imaginative Tales." In fact, "Imaginative Tales" had previously published three other short humorous fantasy novellas in the three previous issues.

    The Big Binge While Bloch is known primarily today as a master of horror, he also had a well-developed sense of humor that was often evident in his stories. While some of his stories contain touches of black comedy, others (such as his Lefty Feep stories) were more akin to verbal slapstick. "The Big Binge" falls squarely in the latter category, with its odd characters and gonzo situations.

    It is interesting to compare the different approaches to packaging this novel made by each of its publishers. When "Imaginative Tales" published the novel as "The Big Binge" in 1955, it employed a sexy cover (see above), with a prominently featured tightly-clothed woman. Elmer (in shaved and clothed gorilla form) and his pink elephant are also present, as is (it appears) one of the University buildings. The teaser line on the cover reads: "Here's A Sure Cure For Inhibitions! -- Robert Bloch's Hilarious New Novel -- The Big Binge." The impression that one forms of the novel is that of a comic fantasy, involving sexy girls and drunken behavior, which is really not all that far off from the actual subject matter.

    While authors generally have no control over how their work is packaged, Bloch must have been nonetheless surprised at the packaging efforts of Curtis Books when, in 1971, "The Big Binge" was re-published (with little apparant material alteration) as "It's All In Your Mind." The cover art on this edition is far more dark and depressing, almost gothic. The main images (a frightened scantilly clad woman, a large bleak staring face, a moonlight graveyard) all seem to be hallmarks of the design of horror books, which this certainly is not. The back cover teaser reads: "A Mind-Bender Of A Novel About A Meek Young Man Who Suddenly Acquires Mysterious Powers (Including The Ability To Reduce Girls To Glorious Nakedness -- Just By The Flicker Of An Eye) -- A Shocker Of A Book -- That Will Keep You Reading Greedily, All The Way To The Last, Startling Page..." As is the case with many paperback books, this edition of "It's All In Your Mind" plays up the more lurid aspects of the story. There is no way that anyone seeing this book for the first time would be inclined to suppose that the actual story is a comedic fantasy.

    Commentary:
    A bartender named Michael Finn. A psychiatrist named Perry Noid. An anthropologist named Hans Noodlemayer. A football coach named Buster Gutz. A vampire named Luke Kemia. If the names of these characters from "The Big Binge" (aka "It's All In Your Mind") strike you as painfully corny, then avoid this book. If you do, however, you will be missing out on an enjoyable romp through Bloch's silly side.

    As the everyman character of Elmer Klopp stumbles through this book on a journey of self-actualization, Bloch's satiric side shows through. Psychiatric theory is quoted authoritatively enough to enable Bloch to poke fun at it; persons in authority are either self-obsessed, petty, or mean-spirited.

    Overall, this is a fun novel, but is probably of more interest to Bloch fans than non-Bloch fans. The style is reminiscent at times of Robert Sheckley, but it seems at times that Bloch is throwing one too many ideas into the mix (don't get me started on the communist spy vampires!).

    Notes: