OUT OF HER MIND

WOMEN WRITING ON MADNESS

A well-chosen collection of some of the finest women’s writing, both fiction and nonfiction, on madness, reflecting the horrifying ways over the years that the condition has been defined and treated. The anthology, with an informative introduction by freelance writer Shannonhouse, runs the gamut from The Book of Margery Kempe (1436) to Allie Light (1999). The intervening 19 pieces—essays, letters, excerpts from fiction’share a common, if dispiriting, thread. Whether the diagnosis is chemical in origin, a current favorite, or anatomical—women’s sexual organs were once blamed for what was called hysteria—treatment has been obtuse and often cruel. Very few seem to have understood, or even listened to, the symptoms or the painful experiences these women were relating. Margery Kempe went “out of her mind” after her child was born, had to be forcibly restrained, but regained her sanity through religious beliefs, becoming a noted mystic. 19th-century social worker Dorothy Dix observed women in New England that were not so fortunate. Some were kept in cages, others whipped, and those thought to be sufficiently docile were auctioned off at an annual sale in which local citizens were paid to house them. As excerpts from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Mary-Jane Ward’s The Snakepit, and Light’s —Thorazine Shuffle— show, doctors, nurses, and therapists seem hardly more enlightened: Patients could not refuse medication even if it made them feel terrible, and, as part of her therapy, Light had to walk with a book on her head to improve her posture. Particularly affecting are Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s —The Yellow Wallpaper——both an anatomy of disorder and a portrait of a suffocating marriage—and —Searching for Mercy Street,— Linda Gray Sexton’s painful reminiscences of her poet mother’s breakdowns. Not a day-brightener, but a stirring anthology of the best and most searing writings that brightly illuminate the dark side of so many women’s lives.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-60330-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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