Books by Ross David Burke

Released: Jan. 11, 1995

A harrowing first-person, semi-fictionalized memoir of the inner life of a paranoid schizophrenic, written while its young author was in jail, mental hospitals, and halfway houses. Burke (195385) committed suicide just after completing this book, leaving a note requesting that Gates, his psychology professor at the University of New England (Australia) publish it along with a factual description of schizophrenia. Gates collaborated with Hammond, a writer and researcher at the same university, in tracing the facts of Burke's life, which are sketched in an introduction; in providing explanatory notes throughout Burke's work; and in writing a brief concluding essay on what is currently known about schizophrenia. Sandwiched between these accounts is Burke's own wild and fantastical account. It opens with a warning to readers that ``this book was written by a drug-induced alcoholic psychopathic paranoid schizophrenic with manic depression... [who] is not sure of the truth.'' In the beginning, Sphere (the author's name for himself) and his hippie companions experiment with hallucinogenic mushrooms, alcohol, and other drugs. His vivid descriptions of these experiences gradually blend into graphic accounts of his schizophrenic delusions, leaving the reader confused about what is happening in the real world and what is in the author's terribly sick mind. There's no confusion about the one point, however, which is that life for a paranoid schizophrenic is, as Burke puts it, a ``living hell.'' Burke told his psycniatrist that he was the Antichrist; he robbed a bank, believing he had been so ordered by a transmitter in his tooth. That the author chose to end his life rather than endure this hell becomes completely understandable. Researchers may continue to ponder the possible causes, forms, and treatments of schizophrenia, but in this book they have unmistakable proof of its terrors. An unforgettable picture of a soul in torment. Read full book review >