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MANIC by Terri Cheney

MANIC

A Memoir

By Terri Cheney

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-143023-7
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

An attorney writes about her decades-long struggle with manic depression.

It would be easier to feel sorry about the degradations, depressions and rejections Cheney has endured if she didn’t spend so much time making sure that we also know how hot she is. She was a high-school varsity cheerleader, has spectacular red hair (all hers—no highlights), attracts males like moths and elicits catty comments from jealous women. She can steal your boyfriend—and will, even if you’re her best friend—and out-rev you at the stoplight with her Porsche. (She got a vintage Corvette for her Sweet 16; one boyfriend drove a Lamborghini.) She graduated with honors from Vassar College, where during one of her bad periods she prowled late-night dorm corridors and ate from garbage cans. After law school, she quickly landed a prestigious job with an L.A. firm specializing in celebrity cases. For years she deceived her employers about her addiction to various prescription drugs. For years she practiced the yo-yo diet, binging and purging. She had a dozen electroshock treatments. She tried to kill herself in a variety of ways. Again, we’d feel worse for Cheney if her tortured accounts of fate’s blows weren’t accompanied by a parade of attractive men who find her irresistible, except for that darn mental illness of hers. The book is almost more embarrassing when she tries to tell us What She Has Learned. A Masai girl covered in sores who can nonetheless smile and a horribly disfigured woman whom Cheney comforts by stroking her beautiful blonde hair appear to exist solely to demonstrate the author’s ability to see that others are actually worse off than she is.

Pedestrian epiphanies like these suggest that, while Cheney may have conquered mental illness, she hasn’t yet overcome the solipsism manifest on every page of her boundlessly self-absorbed memoir.