Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Gracefully Insane:The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital


"Gracefully Insane" by Alex Beam is a knowledgeable, historical portrait of New England's McLean Hospital... the mental hospital equivalent of a 5 star hotel. There have been no guards, no fences, room service, golf, bowling, tennis and a riding stable over time but today this institution faces an uncertain future. One former director was quoted as saying, "If you don't know where you are , then you're in the right place".
This is a lively honest work derived from patient records, journals and interviews of both patients and employees. An unsettling review of mental health treatments from the early days of ice water therapies through the introduction of modern psychopharmacology. Recognizable patients include; Anne Sexton, James Taylor, Robert Lowell and Ray Charles while the hospital experience is clearly evident in Sylvia Plath's, "Bell Jar" and Susanna Kaysen's, "Girl, Interrupted".
"The insane asylum seems to be the goal of every good and conscious Bostonian," Clover Adams wrote in 1879. This book offers a look at the, "Boston arsitocracy that produced, for nearly two centuries, an endless stream of brilliant, troubled eccentrics and the equally brilliant and eccentric doctors who lined up to treat them". I won't say I enjoyed reading this but definately did find it fascinating. - Aurora

1 comment:

  1. I read "Gracefully Insane" after reading a wonderful novel called "The Education of Mrs. Bemis". "Gracefully..." gave real-life background to the 'fiction" of the novel. Though it is strikingly difficult to differentiate between the "real" story and the pretend. I can strongly recommend reading them both!

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