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Gulled again. For all his intellectual sophistication, or perhaps because of it, Sidney Bell, writer, former member of the Communist Party and the American trade union movement, expatriate now living in London, finds himself hooked once more by still another brand of messianism. Frustrated by the politics of socialist Britain and beset by anxiety and psychosomatic ailments, Sidney seeks the help of a psychiatrist who is known to cater to artistic types. Enter Sigal's superb creation among a cast of outstanding characters--Dr. Willie Last. Last is a working-class Scot, Marxist, romantic nationalist, author, movie buff, herald of a new ""ravelushnry caydree,"" exponent of the notion that ""madness"" is but the logical response to a society that denies the (w)holiness of human experience, and dispenser of LSD. Wow! Who could ask for anything more and Sid eagerly steps aboard. His flight out of life takes him at first to Conolly House, an experimental hospital for adolescent schizophrenics, run by one of Last's disciples, where tentative attempts are made to soften distinctions between patients and staff. But Conolly House is a model of decorum and bourgeois respectability compared with Last's sanctum sanctorum--Meditation Manor--which becomes, like Last himself, a media plaything and where only the rich and chicly insane are admitted. Driven by his need for the Master Charlatan's approval, Sid pushes himself out to the brink and is brought safely to earth only by a vision from his trade union past. That's a little too pat but an affordable flaw in a vigorous, humorous and riveting document retrieved from the outposts of Sigal's experience.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1976
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell