As an adventurous young magazine writer for Vanity Fair, Zeman traveled the globe in pursuit of compelling subjects; in this searing memoir, he turns his reporter's gaze inward.
With unflinching precision and a welcome dose of gallows humor, the author catalogues his lifelong struggle with depression and numerous attempts to combat it. When standard talk therapy in combination with various prescription drugs proved ineffective, Zeman turned to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), the “method of last resort.” Formerly known as electroshock therapy and heavily associated in the minds of most people, including the author, with extreme physical pain and resultant loss of mental function, Zeman's friends and family were deeply skeptical of ECT. While his mood briefly improved after the initial session, he soon entered the period of madness to which the book's title refers. The author provides firsthand observations and original insights about clinical depression and its treatments, the well-documented link between creativity and mental illness and the powerlessness of friends and relatives in the face of this type of suffering. Zeman is a first-rate storyteller with a vast and glittering array of anecdotes from which to draw. He is also a narcissistic man-child whose fawning self-descriptions and the gorgeous women he loved and left may try readers’ patience. There's a fine line between employing irony for humorous effect and boasting, and Zeman often lands on the wrong side of it. As he does with his closest friends, he draws readers in with fresh, well-crafted tales of terror, anguish and occasional triumph, then drives them away again with arrogance, evasiveness and self-absorption.
Despite a rushed ending and a difficult narrator, the book is an exact, revealing and intermittently moving portrait of a talented but struggling artist.