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Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors
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Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  68 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Day after day, night after night, desperate men come to sit in the black chair next to Charles Barber’s desk in a basement office at Bellevue and tell of their travails, of prison and disease, of violence and the voices that plague them. Between the stories, amid the peeling paint, musty odor, and flickering fluorescent light of his office, Barber observes that this isn’t ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Bison Books (first published 2005)
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Tim
May 13, 2009 Tim rated it really liked it
We have strange attitudes toward mental illness. Psychological disorders aren't so bad if they give us characters who entertain us on television (the obsessive compulsive title character in Monk), in movies (the multiple phobias and disorders in What About Bob?) or even in classic literary works (the depression of Winnie the Pooh's Eeyore and apparent anxiety disorder of Piglet). Yet many are so afraid of the stigma attached to mental illness that they hide its existence in relatives and certain ...more
Heather Goff
Jul 26, 2007 Heather Goff rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. Charlie Barber is fantastic - especially when he compliments my writing :)
Look for his next book, "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Medicated a Nation." It's another great one.
Cristy
Aug 11, 2010 Cristy rated it it was ok
Contrary to the title, the majority of this book is spent exploring the author's childhood & adolescence, culminating in the suicide of his close friend at 22. Barber explores the depression and OCD tendencies in himself and his two friends, all upper-middle class white males in the mid-20th century. While he broaches the subject of why they all 'dropped out' of their priviledged lives at least for a time (Barber recouped with a Columbia graduate degree - in film, perhaps? - and a lecturer ...more
Bethany
Jan 11, 2008 Bethany rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, psych
Songs from the Black Chair has a subtitle of “A Memoir of Mental Interiors.” This is extremely accurate, and very well done. Barber shows with exquisite detail his experiences with OCD as well as others’ experiences that he has observed as a psychologist. The first half of the book deals with the effects that a friend’s suicide has on his life, and though sad, offers a poignant depiction of what people go through following such an event.

I recommend this to anyone who finds mental illness fascina
...more
Verna
Aug 12, 2009 Verna rated it it was amazing
This is a serious and well written book about mental illness. The author has OCD himself and this gives him much insight and understanding into others who are suffering from mental illness. When one of his best friends dies from suicide, this sets into motion a decision to work with the severely mentally ill. This book is an attempt to come to terms with his OCD, his friend's death and his choice of a career. Much helpful information along with fascinating stories about the down and out segment ...more
Kelli
Oct 07, 2010 Kelli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book was a little misleading. I understood that it was a memoir, and therefore would contain the story of his childhood to set the tone. But, his background became bulk of the story. The actual "songs from the black chair" felt like an afterthought towards the end of the book. A slightly slow read. I did buy this from a library sale (signed) on a trip to Vermont, so I guess I got my money's worth.
Emma
Feb 25, 2012 Emma rated it liked it
This did not turn out to be the book that the person who gave it to me said it would be... but I liked it just fine. The title is a bit misleading in that the book doesn't really focus on the patients who sit in the black chair at all and instead is a rumination of the suicide of a friend and the author's struggles with OCD. It was engaging nonetheless.
Angel
Jun 28, 2013 Angel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.- Fitzgerald

Thank you for writing your memoir, Mr Barber, it was very touching. I'll have to adopt your literary compass as well.
David Gleeson
Nov 05, 2008 David Gleeson rated it really liked it
A fine memoir of overcoming the odds. Had to put it down three-quarters of the way through after he'd promised to set a new course and seemed to have failed. Ultimately he brings it around and it's worth the traipse through so much suffering.
Robbie
Jun 28, 2013 Robbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. The way Charles Barber spoke to the reader was amazing I felt effected by his life and his discovieres.
Heather
Jun 28, 2013 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is too disjointed, I do love the mental health and suicide parts, but I really just couldn't get into it.
Jill
Jun 28, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed how the author shared his story along with those of his clients and his friend. I think it's a beautiful story and has a rawness to it as well..
Jason
Aug 28, 2014 Jason rated it liked it
Sort of a unique book on mental health. It has an unusual format - partly autobiographical, partly biographical, partly from the perspective of a mental health worker..
Kimberly Simpson
Jun 02, 2012 Kimberly Simpson rated it it was amazing
One of the best books i have read on mental illness. Great memoir!
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