Wildly varied in style and content, making for an informative and strange trip through the experience of mental disorders.


A semiautobiographical exploration of mental illness from Harnisch (An Alibiography, 2014).

With conditions ranging from tobacco addiction to schizophrenia, this mixture of personal reflections, fictional characters and a portion of a screenplay investigates what makes the mentally ill tick. Writing at times as his fictional protagonist Ben Schreiber, other times as Ben’s alter ego, Georgie Gust, and occasionally as himself, the author takes readers on a journey involving troubled young men with troubled young minds. The narrators—including, in various narrative formats, the psychologist Dr. C; Claudia, the seductive neighbor; and an older, supportive wife named Kelly—grapple with their psychological problems for the benefit of the reader. What, the reader may wonder, is it like to suffer from the hallucinations of schizophrenia combined with the tics of Tourette’s syndrome? As the author asks, “What do you do when people assume your truths are delusions?” The answers to such questions and the ways in which they are portrayed prove complex. Mixing diary entries concerning the daily struggles of the fictional Georgie with a screenplay detailing past abuses of the fictional Ben, messages are often jumbled though not without merit. For instance, when the narrator announces that “I had a paranoid spell last night. [My wife] was texting me, and I was convinced that it was my stepmother impersonating my wife,” the sting of schizophrenic paranoia is made real. As the author says: “Of course my life would be easier without schizophrenia—sure I wish I didn’t have this condition.” Occasional statements prove less than informative—“Sometimes I’m more productive than at other times”—and throughout the book, even the most careful of readers are likely to feel some confusion navigating scenes including a sexually abusive grandmother and chapter endings such as “Georgie places the letter in his messy desk’s drawer and walks out with a winter coat on and the whole scene changes completely.” Whether all such elements come together to form a memorable impression of illness or merely a collection of fragmented stories depends greatly on the reader’s willingness to follow along on the path provided, no matter how many twists and dead ends are on the way.

Wildly varied in style and content, making for an informative and strange trip through the experience of mental disorders.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500482015

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Babydude Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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