What is the BizOMadness Blog?

This blog is devoted to raising critical awareness of psychiatry generally. It is likewise devoted to the antipsychiatry research projects, publications, and related activities of Dr. Bonnie Burstow. Especially foregrounded are The Psychiatry Project, The Madness Project, and "Psychiatry and the Business of Madness". Related to one another, The Psychiatry Project and The Madness Project involve hundreds of interviews, a dozen focus groups, analysis of several hundred documents and their activation, and dedicated periods of institutional observation. The culmination of both as well as of decades of related interviews and activities is "Psychiatry and the Business of Madness" (timely updates on its publication will be provided)--a cutting edge book in which psychiatry is investigated from multiple angles and which begins to tackle the inevitable question: So if we get rid of psychiatry, where do we go from there?

For the Events page to find events related to this research or this book, see
http://bizomadnessevents.blogspot.ca/

To check out reviews of Psychiatry and the Business of Madness and related publications, see http://bizomadnessreviews.blogspot.ca/

Monday, October 26, 2015

Could Life Be Sweeter?: Signing a Contact for "The Other Mrs Smith"

 Just when I thought life could get much sweeter for those of us in the antipsychiatry world, the Canadian feminist publisher Inanna sent me a contract to to publish my blatantly antipsychiatry novel "The Others Mrs Smith."

Why am I so excited about this novel?  But it conveys the reality of ECT in the way only a novel can, and yet almost no novel really does.

 There is a vast array of different characters in this novel, many of them very colourful.  For example, there is Gerald, a very kind transman with a flair for research and a dim view of the world; Earl Smith, the overbearing Newfoundland husband and an avid environmentalist; Rose Cohan who is Naomi¹s  twin, a bisexual, a twin with a keen telepathic ability; Ruth, Naomi¹s angry daughter; Ida Cohan, Naomi¹s mother, a clever and witty woman, who has the unfortunate habit of creating lifelong feuds at the drop of a hat. And then there is Jack, fondly known as the indomitable Jackman--an extremely helpful fellow patient, an Aboriginal man who is the admiration of most all the patients at St. Pukes, for among other things, as Naomi puts it, he rolls "the meanest cigarette in Turtle Island.  That said, the novel revolves around one character, in whose head we frequently find ourselves mired--narrator and north end Winnipeg Jew Naomi Cohan Smith. Critical to her circumstances is having been subjected to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), and as a result suffering enormous memory loss, additionally an estrangement from her family of origin that she has no way to wrap her mind around. From the moment that we come across this confused woman wandering the corridor of St. Patricks-St Andrews Mental Health Centre (referred to by the inmates as "St. Pukes"), not knowing who she is or even what species she belongs to, Naomi's  plight becomes our world--what has happened to her, what will happen to her. Just as the protagonist slowly comes to terms with the damage as well as the hidden details of her life, so do the readers.

Via the device of flashback chapters, the novel moves back and forth in space and time, between a relatively happy childhood in the legendary Jewish north-end Winnipeg of the mid 1900s and her post-ECT adulthood in Toronto. In this regard the structure of the novel itself may be seen as a metaphor for Naomi¹s mind. While the movement in space continues, the foray through the past comes to an abrupt halt when we come to the limits of Naomi¹s memory.


The novel per se  begins a few years after of what is called Chapter One, with the kindly figure of Gerald as he goes about the unusual task of cleaning someone else¹s house. The introduction of Gerald sets the stage for a query that haunts the novel. Putting Naomi¹s binders back in order, he stops to re-read Back Binder Number Three. He ends it, feeling certain that there is something more to this binder that meets the eye.

What follows is what Naomi calls her memoir (in three books).  Other character breath life into this memoir and this novel.  Examples are It begins with her in the hospital. An uncompromisingly unsentimental novel, every time an easy or cliché solution appears to be offered, it is refused. The novel culminates in Naomi making something important of her life, of her creating meaning and purpose despite the very real damage, indeed, out of it and along side it. The final vision with which it leaves us is one of wisdom. Critical events which transpire along the way include: fleeing Toronto and indeed her controlling husband,  building a new foundation with the twin from whom she has been estranged,  establishing dual residence so as to connect up with her daughter. It ends with Naomi, her sister, and Gerald taking aim at the very institution which is her nemesis and in the process uncovering the hidden truth which lurks in the pages of Black Binder Number Three.

The novel, as circumstances will have it, will not be coming out till 2017, but already I am looking forward to it.  And already book launches in two different countries are being planned.

Check this blog and check Facebook for updates.

2 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to it as well. The gains Mad people have made in reducing the social stigmatization of our lives and anti-psychiatry's evolutionary breakthrough of retooling extreme states into assets for Mad people are, have been, and will forever be accomplished through no means other than by elucidating the culture of Madness, telling the stories of Mad people, and using fiction as a vehicle for presenting as parables the wisdom and experiences that are held in common by all Mad people. Ms. Burstow, you are a scholar of the highest caliber.

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