I fully sympathize with her horrible loss - there were so many moments when I had to cover my face with the book as I read yet another jarring line br...moreI fully sympathize with her horrible loss - there were so many moments when I had to cover my face with the book as I read yet another jarring line bringing back my own excruciating memories. Two stars, however, because most of the time I couldn't empathize with the detached tone. Everyone is entitled to grieve in their own way, but having written my own accounts of deep loss, I personally find more validation and universal meaning in the expression of raw emotion.
She definitely had a few beautiful lines, but it seemed buried under the weight of names of places, quotes from textbooks, and medical procedures. I'd rather hear about what her friends meant to her and what the inside of the hospital was like, rather than a sheer listing of all their full names. (I kept remembering my 8th grade English teacher saying, "Show the reader, don't tell!")
And one afterthought: I wonder if other readers who don't belong to New York's upper-middle class art circle also felt alienated by her constant name-dropping and mentioning of all the locations where she and her husband lived and the restaurants where they dined. Because the names of those restaurants and schools aren't universal experiences for readers, it gives the book the feeling that it was written by a member of an elite club for her fellow members. It's her right, but it was too distracting for me.(less)
This book provided the much-needed entertainment I had been hoping for, but it's not his masterpiece. (Look to "I'm A Stranger Here Myself" for that.)...moreThis book provided the much-needed entertainment I had been hoping for, but it's not his masterpiece. (Look to "I'm A Stranger Here Myself" for that.) I laughed out-loud and loved many of his stories, but sometimes the nostalgia for a very male-oriented 1950's childhood struck me as better suited for one of Bryson's contemporaries. (less)
While Susanna Keysen composes some very poetic essays offering alternative and sometimes beautiful perspectives in her autobiography, her general tone...moreWhile Susanna Keysen composes some very poetic essays offering alternative and sometimes beautiful perspectives in her autobiography, her general tone is very, very defensive. Granted discussing whether or not one suffered from a mental illness can never be easy, but the book seems to be her manifesto for proving that she wasn't really borderline, as her therapist diagnosed.
I don't know enough about Borderline Personality Disorder to judge - I agree that it seems women are disproportionately diagnosed with it, and a conservative environment could easily allow for any non-conformist woman to be blamed for her own marginalization and labeled insane. However, while Keysen seems to want to be seen as simply non-conformist in an oppressive time, she was in some ways destructively so by her own admission. She gave herself bruises, she attempted suicide, she tried to break into her own hand convinced it was a monkey's.
The early Sixties sounded like a terrible time to be a woman, and many of the mental institutions were anything but conducive to healing. Nevertheless, I don't buy the defensive rebel's libertarian spiel that they should just be left alone to hurt themselves, uninterrupted. Perhaps Susanna wanted to criticize her diagnosis or how she was treated, but claiming that her acts of self-harm warranted no such "interruption" with treatment seems rather dramatic and ungrateful. The adolescent glorification of the misunderstood, self-harming Plath-like waif is both dangerous and very selfish, and there are scores of books and songs and films to help this glorification along.
I hope girls who read this book are smart enough not to fall for it, but can still enjoy her moments of poetic greatness.
What I appreciate most about this book is that the author has genuine admiration for his subject and demonstrates this through sincere attempts to und...moreWhat I appreciate most about this book is that the author has genuine admiration for his subject and demonstrates this through sincere attempts to understand everything Lennon endured and did. This is a welcome respite from the usual biographer who is almost always out to unleash the most sordid, tabloidesque details for the sake of sales, or at least has a vendetta against Yoko Ono.
Coleman does not apologize for Lennon's infamous behavior and he shouldn't. The man beat his girlfriends after his mother died; he was emotionally erratic toward almost all who knew him, especially his first son; and a lot of his revolutionary activities were mere spurts of experimentation. But, as Coleman points out, these repulsive acts and unreliable personality were not born out of some natural malice. Lennon was abandoned by both of his parents and lost quite a few close friends and relatives before he was an adult. Like so many neglected children, John Lennon had no excuses but many explanations for his behavior, enveloped in his countless creative gifts to the world.
Coleman also does not take sides in the Cynthia vs. Yoko construct, and avoids it altogether in most situations. If anything, his biography of John Lennon is comprehensive, but it's also that of a true fan.
Being generally anti-war as well as knowing - as anyone does - in which direction post-WWI Germany ultimately turned, this book was chilling for me to...moreBeing generally anti-war as well as knowing - as anyone does - in which direction post-WWI Germany ultimately turned, this book was chilling for me to read. It is now used as an example of post-WWI militarism in Germany in direct opposition to the anti-war movement epitomized in "All Quiet On The Western Front" by Remarque and "War Against War" by Friedrich. So this book is indeed interesting and important to read, thus I gave it 2 stars, but I can't say I enjoyed the macho aggressive propaganda which history proved cannot be dismissed as harmless.(less)
Very interesting stories about places I can only hope to see some day described by someone who was never supposed to live outside the comforts of uppe...moreVery interesting stories about places I can only hope to see some day described by someone who was never supposed to live outside the comforts of upper-middle-class society. That said, I felt her simplistic writing style prevented her from doing these exotic places justice.
Furthermore, as others have pointed out, the fact that she embarked upon her journeys AFTER having established herself socially and economically at home sets her apart from anyone younger or poorer hoping to also live as nomads. While her open-mindedness and her achievements are inspiring, perhaps they translate best in both their significance and feasibility to those situated in the same economic and social sphere.(less)