Susanna Kaysen has written a beautifully poignant memoir of her voluntary commitment to a mental institution at the tender age of eighteen. Since her two-year stay began in 1967, her diagnosis and treatment seem a little off by today's standards. What must institutionalization have meant to a young girl from that time? A time when ostracizing people for mental illness was the norm?
Though slender, this memoir is packed with valuable and poignant insights as Kaysen looks back on that part of her life. She mentions, "The brain talks to itself, and by talking to itself changes its perceptions." And, "Insanity comes in two basic varieties, slow and fast." She goes on to describe these as viscosity and velocity. "Viscosity causes the stillness of disinclination, velocity causes the stillness of fascination."
Kaysen describes the other girls institutionalized with her, sometimes humorously, but also discusses mental illness and how her diagnosis affected her. One of the things that surprised me is that she was recommended to check in for two weeks by a therapist she'd only seen once and wound out being committed for two years, but she never once mentions feeling betrayed by the therapist. Another thought of mine was how normal she seemed by today's standards. People walk around everyday with her symptoms; what used to be aberration is now a norm.
Kaysen's book is a fast read, highly enjoyable, well written, and a very insightful journey through her own illness that will touch the mind of the reader. You'll certainly find yourself sympathizing with this confused young woman, and in the end wishing perhaps you had gotten to know her just a little better. By this, I mean that the book could have been much longer and still have been just as fascinating and touching. I highly recommend this book. Enjoy!
Perhaps this work might be titled ESSAY, INTERRUPTED. I am fascinated to imagine how this 'novel' could become a screenplay, starring one of my favorite actresses, Angelina Jolie, although I've yet to see the movie. I enjoyed the rhythm and the flow of fluid descriptive writing, but feel disappointed overall. A short novel can be powerful, but there are lots of us around who can ramble on about our adventures in the sixties. Additionally, I had trouble keeping the similar characters straight. It's … more
I want to thank Everyone for welcoming me back! :) I'm here to stay folks, my sabbatical on writing reviews is over and I'll continue to review for Lunch. It's great to be back, too! Thanks again for … more
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When reality got "too dense" for 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen, she was hospitalized. It was 1967, and reality was too dense for many people. But few who are labeled mad and locked up for refusing to stick to an agreed-upon reality possess Kaysen's lucidity in sorting out a maelstrom of contrary perceptions. Her observations about hospital life are deftly rendered; often darkly funny. Her clarity about the complex province of brain and mind, of neuro-chemical activity and something more, make this book of brief essays an exquisite challenge to conventional thinking about what is normal and what is deviant.