GOING CRAZY: An Inquiry Into Madness in Our Times by Otto Friedrich

GOING CRAZY: An Inquiry Into Madness in Our Times

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One might wish for a little method to this particular madness--a large, confusing book on a large, inchoate subject: not just ""the madness in our time"" (which should be material enough for anyone) but ""the madness [that] is part of all of us, all the time. . . ."" Friedrich omits hardly anyone or anything. He shifts abruptly from present to past, from real people to characters out of literature, detailing at length their bizarre tales. In a series of disconnected mini-biographies, he touches on all the facets, all the possible interpretations, of the bona fide or apparent crazies. To name a few: Oedipus, Hamlet, Lear, George III, Zelda Fitzgerald, Robert Schumann, Bobby Fischer, Eldridge Cleaver, Norman Mailer, Mark Vonnegut, Harvard graduates, a woman lawyer, opera heroines, a ""man called Harry,"" himself, his friends, friends of friends. . . . He writes well, but the mass of detail simply blurs the real issue at hand; one loses the focus and then begins to wonder if there is one. Friedrich himself admits he doesn't have the answers. Not only is he ""not a psychiatrist [with] all-encompassing theories,"" but he distrusts those who do have them--the traditional psychiatrists as well as controversial figures such as Laing. Interviews are combined with personal impressions, quotations from psychiatrists, many anecdotes, and Friedrich's own ruminations on modern tensions and anxieties. Friedrich himself anticipates his critics and realizes the book's inherent weaknesses. It's assuredly an energetic, ambitious work, but one of those overextended books where more is definitely less than one might have hoped.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1975
Publisher: Simon & Schuster