BIPOLAR BARE by Carlton Davis


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A harrowing look at mental illness and drug addiction.

Bipolar disorder has earned significant media attention. The glamour from movie stars and musicians who suffer from the mental illness has rubbed off on the disease, giving some the idea that it’s a benign condition falling somewhere between moodiness and ADD. The brutal reality of bipolar disorder is fitfully explored in Bipolar Bare. Davis rips away the gloss and exposes the raw emotional bruises that the illness creates. With a forward by the author’s psychiatrist and vivid drawings of his nightmares and warped fantasies, the memoir reads like a mental patient’s journal. Davis tells his story from two perspectives–his and that of his alter ego Carlotta. This character is a whore/dominatrix/angel who guides and admonishes him. Both narrators escort readers through the author’s crack addiction, suicide attempts, institutionalization and cross-dressing. Much like the wildly diverging thoughts of an unstable mind, the book veers from the present to the past, from reality to dreams. It’s a difficult format to follow, but remains engaging. The author devotes a large portion of his writing to the dysfunctional wasteland of his childhood. Abandoned by his privileged father and nightclub-singer mother, he puzzles through how his youth affected the rest of his life. It’s never clear what is fact and what is imagination, but Davis clearly did not receive much nurturing as a child. He recalls being locked in dressing rooms as his mother performed in clubs and being handed off to a grandmother who cared more for family heirlooms than her grandson. In between these childhood memories, the author inserts scenes of him smoking a crack pipe as his wife prepares for work, stealing his stepmother’s bra and girdle to wear when he’s alone and contemplating suicide as he leans over a bridge. Readers may have trouble keeping track of so many voices and stories, but this memoir courageously captures Davis’ mental struggles and riveting climb to recovery.

A jarring, compelling account of bipolar disease.

Pub Date: March 10th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4392-2070-2
Program: Kirkus Indie
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