An award-winning journalist tells the story of one man’s struggle with a rare form of bipolar disorder called the Truman Show delusion.
Kevin Hall had it all: intelligence, money, and good looks as well as a deep love of sailing, a sport that defined his identity from boyhood. Hall excelled in school and, under the guidance of his hard-driving father, won many prestigious sailing awards. He then went to Brown University, where he double majored in math and French literature and also qualified to train with U.S. Sailing Team coaches. During his junior year, Hall suffered the first of many psychotic breaks. He also became aware of “The Director,” an illness-born figure that pressed him to do anything from travel out of town to walk into ongoing traffic for “The Show,” an imaginary reality TV broadcast intended for a worldwide audience. Hall finished college but not without facing more demands from the Director, encounters with the police, and stints in mental hospitals. Back home in California, he continued to train with the idea of one day fulfilling his Olympic dreams. Hall also battled to stay on medications he hated and overcome testicular cancer. He eventually married his college girlfriend, made the America’s Cup Team, and participated in the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he finished 11th. Yet, as journalist Pilon (The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, 2015) ably shows, every triumph was laced with struggle and feelings of monumental failure. He also faced the stern judgment of a father who believed his son was not trying hard enough to overcome his illness. After one especially bad manic episode, the elder Hall told his son he had “wasted time and hard-earned money to be part of Kevin’s indulgence.” The narrative, which is interspersed throughout with photos, interviews, and excerpts from Hall’s journals, reads like an in-depth character study of a morbidly delusional man. As it journeys through Hall’s illness, it also forces readers to consider the “sanity” of their own relationship to a media-saturated world.
Grippingly provocative reading.