Thursday, June 09, 2005

Book Review

I just finished Avery Z. Conner's book, Fevers of the Mind: Tales of a Roaming, Wounded Critter, after weeks of putting it down and forgetting about it, only to pick it back up again. I confess that I'm thrilled to have stumbled upon this work, because if something this poor can be published and labeled a memoir, than surely I could write something that some company would put out there as well.

In all seriousness, Conner's tome is self-indulgent and ultimately, unrevealing. When I read Kay Jamison's books, I felt as though she had stationed a reporter in the depths of my mind's most intimate sensations and darkest thoughts and exposed them to the world in their painful, pathetic glory. In other words, her book was intense; it evoked pity, jealousy, laughter and pain. That's the way a book is supposed to be, particularly when you're writing about an illness of relatable extremes.

Conner's work takes bipolar and guts it, eviscerating his emotional experience of the illness from his logical rationalizations and their eventual failure to explain his life. At the risk of sounding sexist, his account is dry and technical where Jamison's is heartwrending and painful. Both detail their post-bac education in science so the discrepancy is not borne of immensely divergent experiences. Rather, the difference lies in Conner's inability to explain the vagueries of the illness that has indelibly marked his life.

He tells us he was sad and proceeds to ooze out pages of his manic ideas without giving them an adequate context. He doesn't contextualize his behavior well, leading me to suspect that he actually doesn't understand the extent to which being bipolar has taken his life and thrown it in the wind like a billion grains of sand. He's detached, completely unable to separate relevant information from tales of his life that we would rather not hear about.

For example. he indulges us with a discussion of his average childhood. Who cares? His childhood experiences before his disease manifested itself are not relevant, nor are they interesting. If, however, his childhood was marred by emotional outbursts and atypical behavior, then it might be more compelling.

Honestly, if you only read one book about bipolar disorder in your life, don't make it this one. If you read 15 books about being bipolar, I suppose you might include it and then wish that you hadn't.

A good editor who could look at this book and tell Mr. Conner that simply describing a mental institution does not constitute compelling testimony on the nature of being bipolar was desperately needed and clearly, a keen eye checking over the manuscript is lacking.

Not impressed. Definately not impressed.

I don't mean to knock my own writing, but in all honesty, if I can write a better manuscript about my experiences with bipolar disorder, there's no way this drivel should be in print.