Mental illness

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson sees insanity all around him. Partially that is because as a journalist he is drawn to write stories in which people engage in erratic behavior. It is also because he has learned The Psychopath Test, and he cannot stop administering the 20-point checklist to everyone around him.

Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm

Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth

Item 3: Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom

Item 4: Pathological lying

And, so on. From a rude concierge at a hotel to the CEO of a giant corporation, no matter where Ronson looks, everything's coming up psycho.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Madness and Greatness

Great Lives Lecture Series: Madness and Greatness

The University of Mary Washington's 2013 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, April 25, with a lecture on Madness and Greatness by Nassir Ghaemi, author of A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness:

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

“Most kids grow up leaving something out for Santa at Christmas time when he comes down the chimney. I used to make presents for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

When I picked up a copy of Jeanette Winterson’s recent memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, I couldn’t wait to start the first page. I’ve been fascinated by Winterson’s novels for years, but never imagined she would narrate her life in the coherent, linear style associated with memoirs. In Winterson’s fiction, she constantly manipulates the boundary between fantasy and reality, integrating personal experience, mythology, and philosophy into a fluid conglomeration. Although Why Be Happy does feature some of Winterson’s trademark structural experimentation, it is also an engrossing story about one woman’s experience of dysfunction, madness, violence, love, and religion.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

In writing, and in life, it is incredibly difficult to deviate from the paths of least resistance. The established patterns seem so easy and inviting, and it takes amazing willpower and courage to do things a different way. As a writer, Jeffrey Eugenides gracefully avoids clichés and predictability. Both of his previous books, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, are memorable and unnerving. In his latest novel, The Marriage Plot, Eugenides is not alone in his avoidance of formulaic archetypes. The characters themselves are engaged in a meta-struggle to reject obvious and seemingly inexorable fates.

The Marriage Plot follows the intertwined lives of three central characters: Madeleine Hanna, Mitchell Grammaticus, and Leonard Bankhead. The novel opens in 1982, on the chaotic day that is supposed to send the three of them, and the rest of the graduating class, careening into adulthood. The collective mood is characterized by anticipation: professors have pulled out their dusty robes; parents have loaded new film into their cameras. But things are not as simple or inspiring for the young people who are supposed to leave the university’s protective cloister and fend for themselves in an uncertain world. 

The Day the Voices Stopped

By Ken Steele and Claire Berman

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"For thirty-two years Ken Steele lived with the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia, tortured by inner voices commanding him to kill himself, ravaged by the delusions of paranoia, barely surviving on the ragged edges of society. In this powerful and inspiring story, Steele tells the story of his hard-won recovery from schizophrenia and how activism and advocacy helped him regain his sanity and go on to give hope and support to so many others like him.His recovery began with a small but intensely dramatic moment.

"One evening in the spring of 1995, shortly after starting on Risperdal, a new antipsychotic medicine, he realized that the voices that had tormented him for three decades had suddenly stopped. Terrified but also empowered by this new freedom, Steele rose to the challenge of creating a new life. Steele went on to become one of the most vocal advocates of the mentally ill, earning the respect not only of patients and families but also of professionals and policymakers all over America through his tireless devotion to a cause that transformed his life and that of countless others."

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Quitting the Nairobi Trio

By Jim Knipfel

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"As his account opens, Knipfel has just failed at yet another frenzied suicide attempt and has been picked up by the police. Soon thereafter he is forced to settle into a hospital psychiatric ward waiting until a doctor, whose once-a-week sessions last ten minutes each, deems him mentally fit to be released. Effectively abandoned, Knipfel begins his self-analysis and embarks on a series of haphazard skirmishes to regain his sanity, make new friends, and devise ways to pass the time.Ultimately, a revelation from public television and insights from a fellow patient and the late comic Ernie Kovacs provide Knipfel with a way out, one that only a paranoid, or Knipfel, could appreciate."

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The Liars' Club: A Memoir

By Mary Karr

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"A trenchant memoir of a troubled American childhood from the child's point of view describes growing up in a an East Texas refinery town, life in the midst of a turbulent family of drunks and liars, a schoolyard rape, and other dark secrets."

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Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival

By Robert Neugeboren

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"This heart-rending and ultimately uplifting memoir tells the story of two brothers - one a prize-winning novelist; the other an extraordinarily witty, intelligent man who has suffered the ravages of chronic mental illness for more than three decades - and how their love for one another has enabled them not only to survive, but to thrive in miraculous, surprising ways. In the literature of mental illness, Imagining Robert is the first book to tell us what it is like for the millions of families who must cope over the course of a lifetime with a problem for which, most of the time, there is no solution.

"This is a memoir by one man of another man's life - a brutally honest, deeply tender tale without a familiar (or predictable) happy ending. It gives us something better: an unforgettable story of two brothers that heartens by showing us how even the grimmest of lives can be sustained and graced by the power of love."

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Food and Loathing: A Lament

By Betsy Lerner

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"Never before Food and Loathing has the intimate relationship between mood swings and food swings been so honestly chronicled. As a bright but chubby girl, Betsy Lerner believed that thinness was the key to success with friends and boys. By junior high, she had precisely divided the world of food into two camps: the dietetic and the forbidden. Becoming a member of the then-fledgling Overeaters Anonymous, she formed a cult-like devotion to the program and lost fifty pounds in a matter of months, only to gain it all back and more. 'I am powerless over Hostess cakes,' she writes, 'and my life has become unmanageable.'"

"Her twenties are marked by yo-yo dieting, depressive episodes, and a sadistic shrink who dubs her 'the boy who cried wolf.' Then, just as Lerner begins to realize her dream of becoming a writer, entering Columbia's prestigious MFA program, she spirals into a suicidal depression and lands at New York State Psychiatric Institute. There, a young doctor helps her take her first steps toward selfhood and unraveling the dual legacy of compulsion and depression."

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Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania

By Andy Behrman

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"An emotionally frenzied memoir that reveals with kaleidoscopic intensity the terrifying world of manic depression. For years Andy Behrman hid his raging mania behind a larger-than-life personality. He…changed jobs the way some people change outfits...But when he turned to art forgery, he found himself the subject of a scandal lapped up by the New York media, then incarcerated, then under house arrest. And for the first time the golden boy didn't have a ready escape hatch from his unraveling life."

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