Interesting autobiography of someone with borderline personality disorder. Here the reader gets a vivid glimpse inside everyday life for a person withInteresting autobiography of someone with borderline personality disorder. Here the reader gets a vivid glimpse inside everyday life for a person with this very misunderstood and stigmatized disorder. The author details how she went through all the usual issues that often plague people with BPD, including a multitude of disastrous relationships and breakups, trouble handling emotions of any kind, eating disorders and substance abuse, and a history of suicide attempts, including one attempt that took place over the internet, an act which the author notes still haunts her to this day due to the public nature of the event. The book was well written and engaging enough and I found it generally quite intriguing. The one thing I found sort of confounding is that the author mentions at two points in the book how she feels like (paraphrasing here) 'one of those astronauts in the movies who gets cut off from their spaceship and ends up floating helplessly in space.' Isn't that just the one movie, 2001 (Space Odyssey), or were there really a number of these scenes in cinematic history?...more
This book was an enormous disappointment in a surprising number of ways. First and foremost, the book clearly purports to be a memoir but is nothing oThis book was an enormous disappointment in a surprising number of ways. First and foremost, the book clearly purports to be a memoir but is nothing of the sort. Admittedly, there are a few brief glimpses into the author's upbringing as a Vonnegut; indeed, there are hints from the author that his famous father may not have been a terribly good human being and I would have loved to have learned more about this. However, like all issues touched on in this book, his father's real-life persona remains only hinted at and the rest is up to the reader to surmise. Inexplicably, there is only the most fleeting of references to the author's experience with his own mental illness, which is given so little focus that it is simply impossible to consider this book a memoir of life with a mental disorder. To be sure, any issue given consideration herein is readily dismissed as soon as it is uttered. For instance, the author mentions that during a period in which he participated in softball games with colleagues from Harvard Medical School, after celebratory imbibing at a local tavern, he often woke at 2 am to find himself stopped in his car at a green light wondering how he had gotten there. After quickly mentioned, no further discussion or insight on this concern over his blackout or potential alcoholism is explored and the reader is left to assume what he or she will regarding this loaded issue. To further frustrate the reader, there is even less discussion of any psychotic episodes or any difficulties he may have encountered through the years and the concept of his mental illness is left as merely a vaguely hinted at experience that in no way has been illustrated or described to those of us intent on learning about his condition.
I didn't find his vignette style appealing or useful in any way except possibly as a tool by the author to trick those with short attention spans who fail to see that this is no memoir at all, but rather a bunch of random observations, some on mental illness, but most about the state of health care in the US. A worthy subject in its own right, but a heinous one under the guise of a memoir presumably about mental illness. And it must be noted that this book is not particularly well written in any case. I haven't yet read the author's first memoir, "The Eden Express," and am now reluctant to do so having suffered the torments of this attempt, but will press on since I've heard it's considerably better....more
This book is well written and certainly well researched, as the author apparently even resided temporarily in a mental hospital with the main characteThis book is well written and certainly well researched, as the author apparently even resided temporarily in a mental hospital with the main character, Sylvia Frumkin, a young woman who experienced severe psychosis through the schizophrenia that plagued her starting in her early teens. However, even though the writing and relayed incidents are interesting, I had a hard time getting motivated to stay with this book. I think the main reason for this is the seemingly random order in which the author throws the information together. The storyline breaks up continuously as the author decides to switch gears haphazardly to move forward or backward in time at her whim. This is clearly done for affect and rings as inevitably pretentious, which is unfortunate as it's obvious that the author is genuine and has a deep empathy for what Sylvia is going through.
The zany chronology also lends to issues that undermine the strengths of the book. For instance, the author tells us on not one but two occasions that in childhood, Sylvia Frumkin was called "Pumpkin Frumkin" by her peers. It seems likely that this error only occurred because the author zips around in time to such an extent that she made the mistake of adding this bit of history twice. On another note, the author also plainly finds the fact of Sylvia's full name to be endlessly amusing, as she frequently uses the main character's full name throughout the book. This is not only unamusing and trite, but it was also annoying because there are a few times when the author mentions a character's name and assumes the reader knows who she was referring to and this is not always the case. Hence, constantly dropping Sylvia's surname only reinforces the fact that the author needs to specify more frequently who other characters with less colorful names are.
That said, this book really has some things going for it. It is fascinating to see the progression of Sylvia's illness through time as she goes from a frightened teenager just learning about her psychosis to her severely declining status several years later as a permanent fixture in state mental institutions. Her family is frequently discussed, and the family dynamic can be seen intricately woven throughout the course of Sylvia's illness. It is also interesting (and of course extremely unfortunate) to see the numerous misguided attempts at "help" or "therapy" Sylvia received through the numerous institutions she would visit. The author has clearly done her research, and in reading this, one learns all too clearly about the common missteps that occurred in treating schizophrenia from the 1960's through the early 1980's, during which time Sylvia's illness is covered. Typical foibles included severely under-medicating patients, intentionally not reporting incidents of hospital mistakes to keep the numbers looking good, blaming schizophrenic patients for acting out (through use of "quiet rooms" and straightjackets) instead of attempting to understand and work with the reasons for acting out, and a horrible tragedy called Insulin Coma Therapy, in which the patient was induced into an insulin coma and then revived in a misguided attempt, similar to Electroshock Therapy, at trying to knock the schizophrenia out of their minds.
Overall, this is a good book and I would recommend it and would read it again. However, as noted, the book takes on a bothersome quality as the reader is constantly jolted to another, usually earlier, time frame and one must always be prepared to switch gears. If the author had followed a more, daresay, conventional chronological order, the book would have read brilliantly without a doubt. Man I wish I had read that book instead. ...more
I'm surprised at the number of reviews that consider this book too elitist and far removed from the subject matter. I was deeply touched by the very pI'm surprised at the number of reviews that consider this book too elitist and far removed from the subject matter. I was deeply touched by the very personal and detailed accounts of the author's experiences throughout her life dealing with manic-depression.
It is true that the author held the advantage of having resources and especially a large pool of clinically trained psychiatric colleagues at her disposal, but I don't discredit her for this. Indeed, the author took an enormous risk in publishing the book at all, as she concurrently held a faculty position at Johns Hopkins while writing this quite candid and not terribly flattering overview of her difficulties while suffering from this debilitating condition. Admitting to having a severe mental disorder, and therein admitting to acts of violence and obscene behavior, while a faculty member at a school of psychology and while running a large psychiatric program, was a genuine risk to the author's security in these positions. Fortunately, the response from her colleagues and students was mostly favorable, but at the very least, she gave up practicing clinical psychiatry lest this publication would in any way affect her patients' therapeutic progress. The author does go on about her early life, romances in England, and other personal experiences, but in contrast to others' reviews disparaging her for this, I kind of see it as the point of a memoir. I never found Ms. Jamison's descriptions indulgent or snobbish; indeed, I felt like I knew her terribly well by the end of the book, and despite her great academic and professional success, it is obvious that the author lost significant parts of her life and spirit due to being bound by this condition. Her description of her marriage to Dr. Richard Wyatt, one of the most authoritative and prolific scholars on the subject of mental illness, was poignant and endearing enough to make me interested in pursuing her other memoir, Nothing Was the Same, which details her marriage to Richard and which was one of the most affecting books I've ever read....more
"Madness" is the follow up memoir to "Wasted," Hornbacher's first memoir on her experience with a severe eating disorder that nearly took her life. Th"Madness" is the follow up memoir to "Wasted," Hornbacher's first memoir on her experience with a severe eating disorder that nearly took her life. This book, published 3 years after "Wasted," explores her diagnosis of manic depression and the resulting events and hospitalizations she endured while suffering from this condition. The author also questions whether her eating disorder and subsequent alcoholism may have been ignited by her previously undiscovered mental illness.
The book was an interesting read and certainly moved along at a fast clip as I become absorbed in the details of each new hospitalization or other tragic event that became the tapestry of the author's life. The writing is good, but not great, and there is a slight tendency on the part of the author to grandstand and romanticize her condition and experiences. This was the case with "Wasted" as well, but I can forgive her this indulgence as I know manic depression, when one is manic, can cause the person to view much about themselves and their experience as fascinating and exhilarating and something everyone else must find equally spellbinding. For instance, both books have a penchant for telling us how promiscuous the author was and she seems to revel a bit in the telling of the extent of sexual partners she added to her collection and how blase she was about it all. And as with "Wasted," this book frequently swoons in scenes of how the author was treated and how she casually reacted to attempts at therapy and hospitalization; she has a bit of the Brett Easton Ellis brand of self-indulgence in the descriptions of the poor protagonist who just wants to be left alone to look and be the epitome of cool. Fortunately, she garners just enough empathy to make me care about her fate, and again most is forgiven because in the end, this is an absorbing memoir and ultimately gave me a decent glimpse into the everyday life of manic depression. ...more
This was a fairly absorbing book, and I always enjoy it when a biography is written by someone close to the subject. I realize this may sometimes resuThis was a fairly absorbing book, and I always enjoy it when a biography is written by someone close to the subject. I realize this may sometimes result in bias, and that may well have been the case here, but when you read about the issues the Sinatra family had to deal with in the second half of Frank Sinatra's life, you would probably understand. Barbara Blakeley was Frank Sinatra's fourth wife and by this account and several accounts of close friends and other family members that bear witness to the unfolding of this marriage, Barbara was the most legitimate evil stepmother in existence. A controlling opportunist who drove away Frank's close family and friends, according to the author, Barbara seemed not to care what her actions did to Frank's happiness and well being. Barbara was previously married to Zeppo Marx, the unfunny Marx brother, who was 26 years her senior, enormously wealthy, and to whom she was not interested until her modeling opportunities ran out. Even before Zeppo died, Barbara was making her desire in pursuing Sinatra known.
Although I've always loved his music and most of his acting performances, for some reason I've never had much interest in finding out the details of the life of Mr. Old Blue Eyes. I always brushed him off as that guy from the Rat Pack who was sketchily involved with the mob and inexplicably married to Mia Farrow, and although I'm fond his early music, "My Way" is too overplayed and typifies ever drunk businessman who ever attempted karaoke, and anyway my parents liked him. Prior generalizations and misconceptions aside, it is truly heartbreaking to read about what went down during Barbara's reign of terror. I won't spoil anything significant, but suffice it to say that it was horrifying to see how the Chairman of the Board was treated by this strange woman in his declining years and at a time when he was questioning his talent and worth and when he most needed confidence and understanding. There are times when the writing style is somewhat cattish, but again, this is relatively understandable under the circumstances (and considering how much distance Barbara effected between Frank and his children and friends) and certainly this is no Kitty Kelley travesty. This memoir is a fascinating read. Most readers will more happily enjoy the first half of the book, which details Frank's early years, rise, and success in the entertainment industry. The second half is necessarily more depressing as you see the unfortunate and isolating circumstances that make up much of the latter half of Frank's life. It is clear that his children have enormous love and respect for their father and that family is a huge part of the Sinatra family makeup. Knowing what I now know about the final years of Frank Sinatra's life, I will never be able to think of him in the same dismissive way again. I felt like I truly knew Frank and his family after reading this and will always have a gentle spot and unfortunately much sympathy for this great American icon....more
Bobby Fischer was so good at keeping a low profile that few people were aware of his ultimate demise, myself included. I had heard much of his early lBobby Fischer was so good at keeping a low profile that few people were aware of his ultimate demise, myself included. I had heard much of his early life as a chess genius but was curious about what came next. Initially, I was surprised at how absorbed I was with the early descriptions of the complex and lengthy chess matches and found myself very much along for the ride and eager to learn more about the inevitable downfall of Bobby as implied by the book's title. Unfortunately, this book started off much more promising than it ultimately ended up.
While the book does an amazing job of accounting for Bobby's early life, it falls short on detailing what transpired during his "wilderness years." Considering how extreme Fisher's mental grasp of the world around him seemed to have become in his later years, it is curious that Brady does not seem to want to investigate the possible reasons for his mental degeneration. There are a couple instances in the book where Brady includes idle assumptions by Fischer's contemporaries about why he acted the way he did, and Brady even includes specific insight from a notable psychiatrist, but the latter is summed up briefly as being the result of trauma at an early age. I could have done a better diagnosis myself and if I were to accept this theory, I would also add that the FBI investigations of Fischer's mother as well as incidences relating to the KGB during his visits to Russia may have helped to fuel his increasing paranoia. Also, considering the prodigy's idiot savant-like tendencies, I frequently wondered while reading this if Fischer may have had some variation of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), whether Asperger's Syndrome or otherwise. It is known that ASD can cause behavioral problems, including extreme anger. Indeed, at one point Brady jokes that Fischer had what seemed like a form of Tourette's Syndrome in that he could not seem to edit himself when spouting paranoid and hateful dialogue, but I posit that Fischer may well have had a form of Tourette's which some believe is a form of ASD. Not only does the book fail to address this question but Brady seems to offer no attempt at true insight into the reason for Fischer's mental state in his later years.
Finally, although the book is fairly well written, there are a few major editing mistakes that surprised me. This was especially the case because in the acknowledgements section, Brady thanks not only his editor and his wife for their assistance with final edits, but also thanks a number of chess players who offered additional editing services. Go figure....more
I have a mild form of face blindness myself, which is what drew me to the subject matter of this book. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this readiI have a mild form of face blindness myself, which is what drew me to the subject matter of this book. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience. There was the chaotic and difficult childhood (to which I can relate and which is always a major draw for me in any memoir), the exploration of face blindness (an issue which until this book was almost entirely missing from cultural discussion), and the clear, honest and highly entertaining writing style of the author. Ms. Sellers has a style that is unique and endearing; I thought she was extremely effective at illustrating the humor in everyday, often painful, situations and is a pro at eliciting reader empathy. I cared deeply for all the people she described, including her paranoid schizophrenic mother and alcoholic, neglectful, cross-dressing, often violent father. Which is no small feat. I especially cared about the narrator herself, which of course is an extremely important feature in any book. All of this kept me reading at a voracious pace and wanting more. Great read!...more
I'm a huge fan of reality-based books, particularly memoirs that detail traumatic experiences, the more harrowing the better. So I was surprised whenI'm a huge fan of reality-based books, particularly memoirs that detail traumatic experiences, the more harrowing the better. So I was surprised when I had trouble getting into this book. I kept picking it up, reading a few sentences, then putting it down and turning to something else instead, figuring I'd take a stab at it when I finally conjured up the wherewithal to do so. Having run out of alternatives one night, I finally committed myself to the task. At approximately 80 pages, it wasn't too daunting and I finished the book that same evening. Unfortunately, this was in no way an insightful or engaging read and I continued to have trouble trudging through but did so only due to the short length of the book and having run out of other options.
I'm surprised by the large number of reviews on Goodreads lauding this book for its candid exposure of depression. The only thing I found slightly interesting was Styron's noting how Emily Dickinson's "Slant of Light" poem realistically described his experience. However, even this remark wasn't explored in any depth, and I generally did not view the author's description of his experience with depression as insightful or intriguing. Indeed, I barely got any inside information about the author's personal experience with depression other than to glean that the whole business was miserable and dark in an off-hand way. The subject of depression couldn't have been handled in a more clinical and distant manner, and I can't imagine that someone unfamiliar with the experience of depression would come away from this reading with any gained knowledge or perspective. Also, the author is so unabashedly verbose, the book reminded me of nothing so much as my early attempts at writing as a teenager, thesaurus always at the ready. Of course, Styron's writing is of much higher caliber than my high school prose, but his writing definitely made me wonder why Styron's professors never hinted that he might tone it down a little with the adjectives as one of mine kindly did my freshman year of college. The ostentatious writing style also creates a considerable distance between author and reader. At first, I couldn't stop recalling the Henry Fielding novel "Tom Jones" and others like it - the overblown writing style definitely brings to mind the "Dear Reader" style of Fielding and other comic novels that hold the events and their descriptions at such a distance as to make them seem trite and lighthearted folly. After reading this, I will probably take a look at "Sophie's Choice" just to confirm - is this how he always writes? If so, was my college prof wrong?...more