TWITCH AND SHOUT by Lowell Handler


A Touretter's Tale
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Episodic, revealing memoirs of a young man with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder whose symptoms include uncontrollable tics and touching and odd vocalizations. Handler, a photojournalist and faculty member of the New School for Social Research, was born with the disorder but not diagnosed until he was a senior at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Relieved to know that his condition had a name and that he wasn—t alone, Handler eventually became active in the Tourette’s Syndrome Association, and it was through this organization that he found the subjects for a series of portraits of Touretters that Life magazine assigned him to produce. Although that series didn—t run in Life, the experience led him to contact neurologist Oliver Sacks to suggest a collaboration, and their joint photo essay on a Tourette’s family was published worldwide. In 1989, he began a five-year collaboration with film producer Laurel Chiten on a documentary about Tourette’s Syndrome, also titled Twitch & Shout. Thus the disorder has not only shaped Handler’s life, but has been the focus of most of his life’s work. His account of his travels around the country with Sacks as they sought out Touretters is a warts-and-all picture of the noted author, whose peculiar sleeping habits and other idiosyncracies Handler is not averse to recording. He is even more forthright about his own problems, however, describing his search for relief through various drugs (Haldol, pimozide, and for a long time a combination of Prozac and marijuana), his difficult relationship with his brother, the end of his unhappy marriage, in which his pot-smoking lifestyle played no small part, and his brief affair with an especially troubled young woman. With its disjointed structure and photographs that seem to have been flipped carelessly, even haphazardly, onto the page, this memoir has all the energy and twitchiness of Tourette’s Syndrome, which is probably exactly what Handler intended.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-525-94216-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998