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The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  3,454 ratings  ·  253 reviews
The Eden Express describes from the inside Mark Vonnegut's experience in the late '60s and early '70s—a recent college grad; in love; living communally on a farm, with a famous and doting father, cherished dog, and prized jalopy—and then the nervous breakdowns in all their slow-motion intimacy, the taste of mortality and opportunity for humor they provided, and the grim de ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Seven Stories Press (first published 1975)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
There’s no recipe for a happy life. It’s just that in our one-inch-above-the-ground floating world - punchdrunk on whatever ego-trip we happen to find ourselves in - we think there is.

It’s a kind of Eden express.

And if we get really obstinate about how bulletproof our euphoria has now suddenly made us, we’re on Mark Vonnegut’s type of Eden express, mental illness. I caught that train too.

Where did we go wrong?

It’s like this:

Brute reality is unsustainable for long periods of time.

The Eden Express was written by Kurt Vonnegut's son Mark, and is a memoir of his struggles with schizophrenia, or his struggles with, what he once called, "apocalypse, shit storms, and eternal truths."

The first 70 pages of this 214 page book were pretty slow, and barely interesting. They mainly describe Mark's post graduate life, his relationship with his girlfriend, his deep involvement with the hippie community, and his creating a commune in British Columbia. The writing during this first thir
Laala Kashef Alghata
Dec 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
“I figured I had taken patience about as far as it could go and it didn’t seem to be working. Nothing good seemed to come out of it. It seemed the more patient I was, the more I had to be patient with.” — Mark Vonnegut, The Eden Express

I find that it’s hard to review books when you love them completely and want to buy copies for everyone you know. I end up just wanting to say read it read it read it — which probably isn’t very useful in a review.

Mark Vonnegut is Kurt Vonnegut’s son, but as that
Noelle Kukenas
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Read this back in the '70s because the author is the son of one of my favorite authors, only to discover what a brilliant writer he is in his own right. While reading about his journey with schizophrenia, it felt like I had crawled into his mind and was experiencing everything he was experiencing. This a book that stays with you years after you had read it. ...more
Chris Dietzel
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prior to spotting this book, I had no idea Kurt Vonnegut (who I am in awe of) had a son who wrote nonfiction. This book turned out to be fascinating for two reasons. 1) It's the true account of the author's descent into madness (a complete schizophrenic breakdown and relapse) and, 2) Stories involving Kurt Vonnegut are abundant. In one example, Mark mentions that even as a child, there was something about his father which made him be sure Kurt would commit suicide. I can't imagine a child having ...more
Jan 13, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was really hard for me to read and rate.
I say it was hard for me to read because I have had two people close to me go nuts.
All his ramblings reminded me so much of my friend's breakdown that I had to skip around because I couldn't take it.
It really brought back a lot of feelings I went through while trying to help my friend and family member.
It is not a fun or pleasant thing to go through for anyone, and if you read this and have no experience with a schizo, you may understand just a l
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012-challenge
The first 80 pages are about Mark setting up a commune with friends in Vancouver in the 60s. I was bored and waiting for the breakdown. Then, the breakdown came and I realized I waited for nothing. Mark's writing became rambling and disjointed, which is certainly true of a mental break but Its not enlightening or particularly interesting. At least not to me. I did not feel connected to him, engaged with him, and, frankly. I didn't care what was happening to him or his friends. I did not feel the ...more
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book brought me on an existential trip. I actually had to stop reading it for a couple of days because I was living in the book instead of real life. Perfect for someone making a big life change, especially if that includes travelling or moving somewhere else. Intriguing look at schizophrenia and mental illness and what role that played in the age of rampant psychadellic drug usage
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
For reasons so recent and personal, the 1975 book written by Dr. Mark Vonnegut (son of the famed writer, Kurt Vonnegut) “The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity” was difficult to read. Reading this memoir is to accompany Mark Vonnegut in reliving a ‘psychotic episode’ which began after he left college and attempted to set up a self-sufficient farm in British Colombia. Events unfold in unfailingly honest detail, whether Vonnegut is recounting his relationships with family, interaction with others ...more
Aug 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I was drawn to this one because I'm a big Kurt Vonnegut fan; in his memoirs KV mentions his son Mark's struggle with, and subsequent recovery from, schizophrenia in the early '70's. This tale is as tough as it is interesting, because MV does a great job of setting the scene for his breakdown: he left college and joined the hippie movement, hoping to start a commune in Canada, only to see his idealism come to an end in a mental hospital. As he relates his thoughts and actions during the times tha ...more
Tom Schulte
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite biographies; an era, a family, a unique life!

The book charted Mark's descent into schizophrenia. He was twice committed by his father. During this time of his breakdowns he was living in a hippie commune he helped found. While it is not the total point of the book, Mark does see some benefit in his internment in returning him to sanity. He even goes through a few paragraphs attacking some negative misconceptions on shock therapy, which he apparently views indifferently.

Just p
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Knowing that you’re crazy doesn’t make the crazy things stop happening.”

This memoir chronicles Mark Vonnegut’s life living on a hippie commune farm in Canada; his battle and recovery from schizophrenic breaks. Much like his father, Mark is a talented and engaging writer. This story is open, uninhibited, and kind of bonkers.
Susan (aka Just My Op)
3 1/2 stars. This memoir of one man's descent into schizophrenia, as it was diagnosed then, was first published in 1975, and republished in 2002. I had never read it, and am getting a copy of Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So A Memoir by Mark Vonnegut by the same author, so wanted to read the original before I read the followup.

Mark was an idealistic, just-out-of-college hippie who thought starting a commune in British Columbia was a great idea. He was just trying to do the best he knew
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture
It seems sometimes that there is a direct relationship between how hard I try to be a good person and how sad I get about the world. Mark Vonnegut became insane chasing a lot of the feelings I sometimes get caught up in. During the 1960s he is very involved in being a "good hippie" (his words, not mine). His quest to be unselfish and rational leads him down a frightening path of insanity, and eventually recovery. This is an amazing memoir, and I'm very glad I read it. I related so much to his fe ...more
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd describe this book as a "heavy" read. Heavy mostly due to the emotional roller coaster that comes in, the Eden Express might be able to make you relate to or at least truly empathize with what people who have schizophrenia go through....

Sometimes it was hard for me to read and relate to the hippiedom that he was describing, so the reading was a bit slow at the start, but reading further in the book, i wished i had cherished that part more because it got stressful fast (but difficult to put
May 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
i would add this to the list of books i should have read years ago. While i have not lived the experiences of the writer, much of the material-- theory, visions and perspectives-- parallels much of what has been resident in my head since leaving college. I would recommend this tale to anyone who has ever felt driven to insanity by the world we face daily, or to those who have wanted to change or save the world, or to people who do not want or cannot blend with the herd or who have seen the apoca ...more
Holy moley. Could this man write like his father - but in an entirely opposite style. If you are from BC, you will especially like this, as it takes place on a commune near Powell River, and in Vancouver. I wrote "could" because his recent memoir is an utter disappointment. This is a speeding mind at its most intense. If you've ever felt overwhelmed, read this and know that you are far from overwhelmed. ...more
Adriana Paramo
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
At various points it felt as though it was me who was losing it.
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Never before has a book so successfully made me feel like I was loosing my grip on reality. In doing such however, the author has made several sections of the book somewhat incomprehensible.
Jul 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fascinating look beyond the walls of sanity, a self-portrait from a gifted writer
Emily Dawn Shader
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity is the story of a man named Mark Vonnegut. Mark is the son of the famous author Kurt Vonnegut (author of Salughterhouse-Five). This memoir tells the tail of Mark's journey through insanity. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Through this journey he has several mental breakdowns and has to be institutionalized, but he overcomes his disease and become a successful pediatrician after attending Harvard Medical School.
This story of Mark's life starts
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
An extremely well-written book by Kurt Vonnegut's son about his own experience of mental illness. Although not much happens, objectively
speaking, in this novel, I never got bored. M. Vonnegut's writing style reminds me especially of John Fante's (which is unusual), enough so as to seem deliberate, but not imitative. This novel is similar enough to Behrmen's "Electroboy", like a prehistoric version, that if I was still in grad school, I'd've combined the two reviews in one paper. Vonnegut's acce
Oct 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Written from the perspective of someone caught in the grip of schizophrenia, The Eden Express is, for the most part, very difficult to read. For one thing, it resonated with me because of my own bout with bipolar disorder. It was also difficult to read because of the disconnected nature of the narrative. The author's point of view, for the first 3/4 of the book is tainted by his chemical imbalance. The part of the book concerning his treatment is far more palatable and informative. Vonnegut, in ...more
Apr 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was an adventure into madness. Amazing, if its accurate of how good a memory mark has. He is the son of the author kurt vonnegut and thats how i got turned on to the book. A first person autobiography of about 2 years of his life when he suffered from schizophrenia and then somehow came out of it. It reminded be of the movie A Beautiful Mind alot, except Mark was an upper middle class Swarthmore grad hippy in the early 70's, went up to BC, started a commune, didn't do to many drugs, an ...more
Jessica Rose
Jul 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors of all time. Before goodreads I didn't even know his son had written anything, but after reading the reviews on this book I decided to pick it up.

The first half of this book Is just Mark Vonnegut describing life after college on his hippie commune with his hippie college friends and although the writing wasn't terrible, I had to push myself through because it was a pretty boring. I found myself thinking, "come on, just go crazy already!!"

And then it h
Noam Heller
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of the most captivating memoirs I've read!
I was completely hooked, moment to moment.
I imagined the farm, his friends, how the atmosphere went from awe-inspiring to downright terrifying.
On the one hand, "losing it" in a hippielike, open-minded environment always seemed to me like a relatively soft landing as you spiral into madness. But sometimes the over tolerance to your bizarre behavior is a cause for more chaos. So it was interesting to see how despite the patience and acceptance withi
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kurt Vonnegut's son graduates from college circa '69 and goes off with friends to a farm in B.C. to live the hippie-new-society-commune dream. But, oops, along the way he goes nuts! That always throws a monkey wrench into the works.
This autobiographical work (sole book by Vonnegut Jr. as far as I know) provides a good glimpse into schizophrenia, but is perhaps equally valuable as a contemporary portrait of hippie life, culture & philosophy by a participant. He indicts hippie culture to some ext
Nate Jordon
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, terrifying memoir about one man's descent into mania and insanity. As the only son of a father who was a paranoid schizophrenic, who died before I got a chance to know him and understand his condition, Vonnegut's book answered many questions I've had for a long, long time. What the disease does to the diseased, the consequences it has on friends and family, social and cultural implications...Vonnegut approaches all these themes and ideas while maintaining a cohesive narrative that i ...more
Relatively interesting autobiography of Vonnegut's son developing schizophrenia, while being part of the 70s counter-culture - realistic (albeit tiring) rambling of all the things that went through his head, and interesting reactions of his surroundings (something like "mental illness is a myth perpetuated by the man to keep us down"). It does get boring in endless descriptions of those people around him.

Recommended for: those interested in what happens to people developing a mental illness
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Mark Twain Vonnegut is an American pediatrician and memoirist. He is the son of the late writer Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and his first wife, Jane Cox. He is also the brother of Edith and Nanette Vonnegut. He described himself in the preface to his 1975 book as "a hippie, son of a counterculture hero, B.A. in religion, (with a) genetic disposition to schizophrenia." ...more

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