On The Edge of Insanity

In this commanding debut memoir, Watson conveys what it’s like to live with multiple mental illnesses.
Watson’s comprehensive autobiography recounts her life before and after she was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive and bipolar disorders. The memoir spares no details, and Watson’s raw voice and transparency make it an unflinching, unfiltered look at life with paralyzing illnesses. For example, the author admits to a narcotics addiction and provides a comprehensive look at her excessive bathroom and shower routines, which involve “washing the same arm in the shower ten times” and “brushing my teeth in the same pattern five times.” She ends nearly every chapter with helpful tips for living with OCD, depression and bipolar disorder—an innovative approach that eliminates the distance between her and her readers. She also makes it clear that her mission in writing and publishing this memoir is to help others understand these disorders. As a mix of facts and self-reflection, this memoir is an invaluable medical narrative; to read it is to feel her pain as if it’s one’s own. However, if the book’s brutal candor is its strength, it can also act as its flaw; the tell-all honesty can be helpful, as when the author analyzes her symptoms, but sometimes it can be superfluous and overlong, as when she lists the names of the medications she’s currently taking. A stronger edit might have made for a more sharply focused and coherent book, as it lacks a narrative storytelling structure. That said, its energy and the stream-of-consciousness voice lend it an authenticity that might have been lost if it were more refined.

An admirably sincere, if unpolished, memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1479365302

Page Count: 392

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

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The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF DEPRESSION

The creator and host of the titular podcast recounts his lifelong struggles with depression.

With the increasing success of his podcast, Moe, a longtime radio personality and author whose books include The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton: A Parody (2015), was encouraged to open up further about his own battles with depression and delve deeper into characteristics of the disease itself. Moe writes about how he has struggled with depression throughout his life, and he recounts similar experiences from the various people he has interviewed in the past, many of whom are high-profile entertainers and writers—e.g. Dick Cavett and Andy Richter, novelist John Green. The narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion, and the author relates his family’s long history with depression and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic, and one of his brothers was a drug addict. Moe tracks how he came to recognize his own signs of depression while in middle school, as he experienced the travails of OCD and social anxiety. These early chapters alternate with brief thematic “According to THWoD” sections that expand on his experiences, providing relevant anecdotal stories from some of his podcast guests. In this early section of the book, the author sometimes rambles. Though his experiences as an adolescent are accessible, he provides too many long examples, overstating his message, and some of the humor feels forced. What may sound naturally breezy in his podcast interviews doesn’t always strike the same note on the written page. The narrative gains considerable momentum when Moe shifts into his adult years and the challenges of balancing family and career while also confronting the devastating loss of his brother from suicide. As he grieved, he writes, his depression caused him to experience “a salad of regret, anger, confusion, and horror.” Here, the author focuses more attention on the origins and evolution of his series, stories that prove compelling as well.

The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20928-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical.

THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

THE RUTHLESS VERSUS THE REST OF US

From the author of The Myth of Sanity (2001), a remarkable philosophical examination of the phenomenon of sociopathy and its everyday manifestations.

Readers eager for a tabloid-ready survey of serial killers, however, will be disappointed. Instead, Stout (Psychiatry/Harvard Medical School) busies herself with exploring the workaday lives and motivations of those garden-variety sociopaths who are content with inflicting petty tyrannies and small miseries. As a practicing therapist, she writes, she has spent the past 25 years aiding the survivors of psychological trauma, most of them “controlled and psychologically shattered by individual human perpetrators, often sociopaths.” Antisocial personality disorder, it turns out, occurs in around four percent of the population, so it’s not too surprising that treating their victims has kept Stout quite busy for the past quarter-century. Employing vivid composite character sketches, the author introduces us to such unsavory characters as a psychiatric administrator who specializes in ingratiating herself with her office staff while making her patients feel crazier; a captain of industry who killed frogs as a child and is now convinced he can outsmart the SEC; and a lazy ladies’ man who marries purely to gain access to his new wife’s house and pool. These portraits make a striking impact, and readers with unpleasant neighbors or colleagues may find themselves paying close attention to Stout’s sociopathic-behavior checklist and suggested coping strategies. In addition to introducing these everyday psychopaths, the author examines why the rest of us let them get away with murder. She extensively considers the presence or absence of conscience, as well as our discomfort with questioning those seen as being in power. Stout also ponders our willingness to quash our inner voice when voting for leaders who espouse violence and war as a solution to global problems—pointed stuff in a post-9/11 political climate.

Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-7679-1581-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2004

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