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Susanna Kaysen was born in 1948 and brought up in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she lives still. She has written two novels, Asa, As I Knew Him and Far Afield. While working on the latter, memories of her two year stay at McLean's psychiatric hospital began to emerge. With the help of a lawyer she obtained her 350 page file from the hospital. Girl Interrupted followed.
Kaysen's tell-all memoir received an immense amount of media attention and critical praise. The book became a best seller and has recently been made into a movie. In 1967, after taking 50 aspirins to abort the parts of her that she didn't like, the author for the first time visited a psychiatrist, who immediately called a taxi and hospitalized her. The money that her parents had intended to spend on her college education instead went into paying for a two-year stay at McClean Hospital. Poets Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, singers James, Kate, and Livingston Taylor, as well as Ray Charles are among the hospital's renowned clientele or, as they call themselves, "graduates." Kaysen offers good insights on the connections among poetry, music, and madness as well as a vivid account of institution life. She is at her best when gossiping, describing her surroundings, and offering one-liners on her stay at McClean. Unfortunately, her reading is flat and ultimately difficult to listen to. Not a necessary purchase except where demand dictates.DPam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
'Not since Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar has a personal account of life in a mental hospital achieved as much popularity and acclaim' TIME MAGAZINE 'Intelligent and painful' GUARDIAN 'Girl, Interrupted is superb, poignant and more powerful for its lack of romantic inflation, whining, or self-congratulation' SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 'Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted is the autobiographical story of the author's time in a psychiatric award in 1967. Sylvia Plath was a patient at the same hospital in the early 1950s so inevitably comparisons have been made between Plath's The Bell Jar and Kaysen's novel--both recounting a young woman's descent into insanity. This, however, is where the similarities end--The Bell Jar is a haunting and lyrical book; Girl, Interrupted is a more hard-edged, documentary-style narrative. It has none of the beauty and poetry of Plath's prose and is more akin to Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation , an up-to-date memoir of a young girl's struggle with depression and drugs. Both these books offer a brutal and stark image of a life of mental illness. Kaysen's account goes further and questions the standard notions of sanity and insanity. Her plausible voice allows the reader to accept a world where time is distorted, chaos reigns and questions are left unanswered, capturing perfectly the sense of helplessness and frustration felt by these women. The book's gritty realism is also heightened by copies of the author's original medical reports lodged between the chapters. However, it is her penetrating insights into those around her, from those cared for to the caretakers, that make "Girl, Interrupted" so potent. Lacing her narrative with a hard-edged, sardonic sting, she introduces us to a cast of characters from the outrageous Lisa to the chicken-hoarding Daisy to the Martian's girlfriend: Daisy was a seasonal event. She came before Thanksgiving and stayed through Christmas every year ... "Would anyone like to share?" the head nurse asked ... "Me! Me! Somebody who was a Martian's girlfriend and also had a little penis of her own, which she was eager to show off, raised a hand; nobody wanted to share with her. "Girl, Interrupted" is a credible and creditable chronicle of the lives of women in the 1960s who, through the ignorance and narrow-mindedness of society, were contained and monitored for not fitting into the "norm", the mainstream.' Nicola Perry, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW
Kaysen's startling account of her two-year stay at a Boston psychiatric hospital 25 years ago was an eight-week PW bestseller. (Apr.)