essays

Review: The Collected Schizophrenias

The Collected Schizophrenias

Esmé Weijun Wang

Stumbled upon this at my favorite local used bookshop, the Bookworm in Boulder, Colorado,CollectedSchizophrenias and what a lucky find. I was unfamiliar with Wang’s writing, but loved the theme of this essay collection: her life with schizoaffective disorder and other explorations of mental illness.

Through essays that combine research and personal experience, Wang shows us the different flavors of schizophrenia, which are more diverse than public perception or TV and film portrayals.

She addresses the media portrayal head on in the essays “Reality, On-Screen” and “The Slender Man, the Nothing, and Me,” which are, in turn, shocking and heartbreaking. The author — who is both wickedly smart and funny — studied at Yale and Stanford, yet, during psychotic episodes becomes so unmoored that her husband has to explain that movies and television shows are fictional.

She also explores the topic of involuntary commitment, the ethics of procreation and delves into the darkest corners of mental illness: violence (rare in actually, but over-represented in the media) in “Toward a Pathology of the Possessed” and Cotard’s delusion (belief that oneself is dead) in “Perdition Days.”

My favorites are “Diagnosis,” the lead essay that introduces us to her journey, and “Yale Will Not Save You,” which reveals the shortcomings of academic institutions in addressing the mental health needs of students.

The Collected Schizophrenias won the 2019 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, and that means something. Graywolf Press publishes incredible books that challenge and enlighten, such as Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, which I consider to be one of the best books of the decade.

Likewise, The Collected Schizophrenias will challenge your preconceived notions of mental illness, introduce you to its many manifestations and delight you with confident prose, brutal vulnerability and a narrative quest that is more of a question than an answer.

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Best American Essays 2012

The Best American Essays 2012The Best American Essays 2012 by Robert Atwan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Brooks, as expected, compiled a thoughtful and engaging selection of essays.

Faves:

Miah Arnold: “You Owe Me”

Dudley Clendinen: “The Good Short Life”
(“But we don’t talk about how to die. We act as if facing death weren’t one of life’s greatest, most absorbing thrills and challenges. Believe me, it is. This is not dull.”)

Mark Edmundson: “Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?”
(“In reading, I continue to look for one thing — to be influenced, to learn something new, to be thrown off my course and onto another, better way.”)

Joseph Epstein: “Duh, Bor-ing”
(“One can also tell a great deal about a person by what bores him.”)

Jonathan Franzen: “Farther Away”
(“The allure of suicide, the last big score, may go underground, but it never entirely disappears.”)

Malcolm Gladwell: “Creation Myth”

Alan Lightman: “The Accidental Universe”

Ken Murray: “How Doctors Die”

View all my reviews