Cambridge Book Club Message Board › New Meetup: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
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Announcing a new Meetup for Cambridge Book Club!
What: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
When: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 6:30 PM
donation: $1.00 per person
Where: Life Alive
765 Mass Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139
My name is Hubert and I've agreed to take on the Organizer role for the Cambridge Book Club. Many thanks to Lisa for her great work organizing!
We will continue with our pattern of alternating fiction with non-fiction reads. Since May's read was fiction, June's will be nonfiction, for which I've chosen Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. The book is rather breezy at 168 pages, takes place in nearby Belmont, and is written by a Cambridge author. The Minuteman library system has multiple copies of the book. And it was made into a movie starring Winona Ryder.
When Kaysen was 18, in 1967, she was admitted to McLean Psychiatric Hospital outside Boston, where she would spend the next 18 months. Now, 25 years and two novels (Far Afield, 1990; Asa, As I Knew Him, 1987) later, she has come to terms with the experience- -as detailed in this searing account. First there was the suicide attempt, a halfhearted one because Kaysen made a phone call before popping the 50 aspirin, leaving enough time to pump out her stomach. The next year it was McLean, which she entered after one session with a bullying doctor, a total stranger. Still, she signed herself in: ``Reality was getting too dense...all my integrity seemed to lie in saying No.'' In the series of snapshots that follows, Kaysen writes as lucidly about the dark jumble inside her head as she does about the hospital routines, the staff, the patients. Her stay didn't coincide with those of various celebrities (Ray Charles, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell), but we are not likely to forget Susan, ``thin and yellow,'' who wrapped everything in sight in toilet paper, or Daisy, whose passions were laxatives and chicken. The staff is equally memorable: ``Our keepers. As for finders--well, we had to be our own finders.'' There was no way the therapists--those dispensers of dope (Thorazine, Stelazine, Mellaril, Librium, Valium)--might improve the patients' conditions: Recovery was in the lap of the gods (``I got better and Daisy didn't and I can't explain why''). When, all these years later, Kaysen reads her diagnosis (``Borderline Personality''), it means nothing when set alongside her descriptions of the ``parallel universe'' of the insane. It's an easy universe to enter, she assures us. We believe her. Every word counts in this brave, funny, moving reconstruction. For Kaysen, writing well has been the best revenge.
Looking forward to seeing you all in a few weeks!
Check it out!