A detailed first-person account of one man’s mental illness that leaves big questions unanswered.

A WEEK ON A WARD

In his debut memoir, Douglas recalls his life-altering week as a patient in a psychiatric ward.

“Some 50 years ago, I was introduced to the worlds of psychedelics and psychic phenomenon,” Douglas writes. “It did not end well.” As a young man, he thought of himself as a “bright bundle of promise.” By his mid-20s he had obtained a master’s degree in education and was working as a senior systems analyst, but he was unhappy with his life and embarked on a journey into what he terms “magic” using psychedelic drugs, yoga, and mind control. He eventually found himself on a downward spiral that led him to drive himself to a hospital, where he was given a shot of Thorazine, and woke up in a closed psychiatric ward feeling “weak and scattered.” Begun within six months of his release and rewritten during the next couple of years, this memoir offers a day-by-day account of his hospital stay, carefully detailing his thoughts, from the notion “I’ll never get better. I’ll never leave the ward” to the paranoid fantasy that he “would be changed to a female.” Douglas admits that he wrote much of the account while “still delusional and still hallucinating” but had an “inner need” to finish it. He describes his hallucinations in vivid detail, including one in which he attempted to escape the ward and felt that he was viewing his pursuit from above: “As if from a great distance, I watched several doll-like figures running back and forth, crisscrossing from one side of the corridor to the other. My world went sideways. It was as though I were watching all of this running and activity from a great height, perhaps as much as 4 or 5 stories up.” Such accounts can become repetitive, and phrases such as “on the other hand” recur with nagging frequency. The book also would have benefited from better framing of his experiences. Douglas says his week on the ward “would drastically affect the rest of my life,” but it’s never quite clear how, and he says little about how he perceives his hospital stay 50 years later. Absent that kind of reflection, this book may interest those with similar experiences, but for others it will prove uncomfortable reading.

A detailed first-person account of one man’s mental illness that leaves big questions unanswered.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-982214-68-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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