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LITHIUM JESUS

A MEMOIR OF MANIA

A casually told but often compelling account of wrestling with inner turmoil against gritty, dramatic international settings.

A young man grapples with bipolar “voices” via religion, hedonism, activism, and Lithium.

In his debut, Monroe-Kane, a Peabody Award–winning public radio producer, brings a fresh perspective to familiar memoir territory. During his childhood, his impoverished family stressed a spirit of eccentric independence, which enabled him to conceal symptoms of mania. “For the most part, I didn’t worry much about the voices,” he writes. “But at night, things could get dicey.” In adolescence, the author was drawn first to evangelicalism, deciding the voices meant he’d been “anointed by God as his special emissary,” then to the Mennonites he met at a small religious college. Diagnosed as schizophrenic following a breakdown in college, he threw himself into volunteer missionary work, which led to immersion in the leftist radical scene around Amsterdam. He enjoyed sexual and chemical awakenings, while his manic energy compelled him to organize grass-roots events, although his frustrated comrades eventually expelled him after a monthlong LSD binge. Humiliated, he then went to Prague, where the post-communist cultural awakening inspired him to give up psychiatric medication for the next 15 years. “The time had come,” he writes, “…to bring back the voices. To admit more loose associations.” The narrative speeds up into a further blur of hard drug use and sex until an ominous encounter with organized crime during a scheme to open the city’s first internet cafe points him (rather neatly) toward a resolution. The conclusion finds the author married with children, done with hard drugs, but relying on therapy and medication: “My daily doses were back, and with them returned all the old doubts.” Monroe-Kane writes about his fevered youth clearly and thoughtfully, underscoring how religious fervor, politics, and a party lifestyle can all mesh dangerously with mental illness.

A casually told but often compelling account of wrestling with inner turmoil against gritty, dramatic international settings.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-299-31000-4

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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