Tag Archives: Ned Vizzini

[Judge Perd is not a judge.]

3. An Unquiet Mind – Kay Redfield Jamison

“A Memoir of Moods and Madness” and a stone cold classic for anyone interested in mental health, An Unquiet Mind is also an engaging read. Jamison’s experience with manic behavior was extremely interesting to me – her description of running rather endlessly around a parking lot during the process of earning her degree and using “we’re psych students” as the reason when questioned stood out in particular. It sort of suits the trope of going into psychiatry because one has psychological issues, but, that doesn’t have to be true. It’s very possible to ignore your own symptoms regardless of what you’re learning about or what level of professional development you’ve achieved. Brains are tricksy.

One thing to remember while reading An Unquiet Mind is that, especially if you don’t have anyone to catch you or clean up the giant mess you may have made while manic, this is definitely not an instructional manual for what to do if you are also experiencing manic or depressive episodes. It’s a memoir, and it has helpful examples, but it is not a self-help manual. You may recognize yourself, you may end up being a little envious of some of the things Jamison has gotten to do, you may not even care about getting to stay in England for long periods of time to write (I miss it). It always amuses me that I know the struggle to publish as an academic writer exists, but when you read material from people who have ended up with published work, when they discuss writing their proposals it’s just like a given that it’s going to happen- of course it did, but, somebody should write in one of their failed projects too, give the folks at home something to relate to on the other side because there’s a lot of failed academics out there who probably assumed their work was going to get published too… (Full disclosure, I am not an academic writer. I’ve just seen a lot of stressed out academics as a librarian and I’m guessing not all of them had a streamlined path to publish their research. And I’ve read or skimmed a crapload of extremely dry articles, so I wonder if the academic writers with stronger writing voices are getting shafted.)

Twiglet, a stone cold classic anchor pig.

Twiglet, a stone cold classic anchor pig.

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Find some other way to feel. Then you won’t feel sad. Good luck.

70. Gone South – Robert R. McCammon

I’ve been looking at this book on my mother’s bookshelf for a long time and it’s one hell of a novel. I did not expect a single thing that happened in it; I didn’t know I was going to be reading such a tense, fantastical story that included some Elvis, some serious amounts of sweating, a fairy tale garden, drug dealers, obstinate ladies, and a conjoined twin. I felt like I understood it better after having lived in Mississippi (it takes place in south Louisiana) and I definitely know where the areas that the story took place are on a map – mainly it reminded me that there are some things about living in the South that I cannot explain to anyone. It’s retained its sense of wildness and a weirdness that is heavily on display in Gone South. And living there truly demonstrated to me that there are some things that can never be fixed, some things that will work themselves out regardless of how much I worry, and some things that are just doomed. My darling Duncan was one such doomed individual and you can see her sweet little profile in the photo below, she’s with her mother Murderface. She died four years ago today, the first of my herd of eight to pass, of cancer. She was only nine months old and time was obviously not on her side. No it wasn’t.

I think about Duncan a lot and regardless of whether or not I want them to, some of my pigs’ death days sneak up on me. I’m pretty sure one of the currently living pigs’ death day is soon to come and so the death days are reminders of what I’ve gone through and what I will go through again and again, as long as I choose to keep these little rapscallions. Granted, the benefits of having guinea pigs for me far outweigh the non-benefits. Lost my words there a bit. Oh well. Anyway, another reason that Duncan’s death day is weighing heavy four years on is that Ned Vizzini committed suicide recently. He was only a year older than me and was living a chunk of my dream career- he’s had four books published, he allowed a movie to be made of one horrifically affecting novel (that meant a lot to me), and he was writing for television. He also may have had enough money for his family to live on at any given time. And some people have to write- regardless of whether or not it’s ever going to get anywhere that anyone notices- and some people get paid too. It’s hard to understand where that kind of accomplishment would go south on you. But maybe he lost his anchors or maybe he was being pressured to just “get over it” too much, as that seems to happen to people with serious depression. I definitely lost my anchor and, just a quick public service announcement, try not to choose anchors that can die.

So, 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short' it is! Fuck it, you won.

Murderface and Duncan Hills, brutally cute, also brutal reminders of how short the lifespan of guinea pigs can be. Happy Holidays, Mr. Hobbes!

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I didn’t think the movie had as much punch

20. It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini

So the other day I was discussing bookage with SJ and writing about books we like came up. It’s more complicated to write about books I like than books I don’t like because often I can’t come up with a reason I like them that’s articulateable. Or that I can write about using real words. It’s not like I don’t want to read books that I like, it’s that most books have an obvious flaw. And as someone who has been through art and writing workshops in college and grad school, I am lazer trained to point out things that could improve over things that I like – because, if you like something, you are supposed to justify it. Why do you like it? Who cares if you like it? What are you trying to say by liking something, that the reader is just supposed to accept that something is good because you say so? And so on. You’re also supposed to find things you like to pad things you don’t like – that’s called constructive criticism…maybe not the straight up definition, but that’s how it usually works out in practice. Anyway, for the rest of this month I’m going to get to the books on my list (I read this one in 2011) that I’ve been avoiding because I like them so much. Maybe. I already wrote about Ruined , that’s my favorite New Orleans ghost story that I’ve read thus far. Specific!

Anyhoo, I like reading about mental illness, especially somewhat sanitized – they’re going to get out of the institution – mental illness. Like watching Hoarders, it articulates that everyone has something wrong with their brain and so if you’re high-functioning, you should be proud of yourself and let some pressure to be even more high functioning go. I adore One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (both book and film) and I have this autobiography about OCD that I’m sure will be helpful. I also initially liked Prozac Nation when I read it as an angsty college student, although I feel different about it now that I have guinea pigs and depression to take care of.

Speaking of guinea pigs, one of the reasons I like It’s Kind of a Funny Story so much is that its protagonist discussed the concept of having anchors. His anchors keep him tethered to this reality or interested in living, they’re what he uses to keep himself connected. I’m sure it’s deeply personal for him, but it let me in on something about myself. I also do this with my guinea pigs. When I read about his anchors, I immediately thought of Twiglet (of course pictured below). When I started keeping guinea pigs again after an eight year absence from their presence, it was like a fireworks display set to the “Funky Fanfare” from the beginning of Quentin Tarantino movies went off in my head. Why the hell had I gone so long without keeping guinea pigs? They’d only been totally important to me since I was ten. They only make my favorite noise in the universe. I’d been relying on my shifty-eyed Big Boy banks and my way too happy Rose O’Neill Buddha (the lawn ornament, non-licensed version) to keep me afloat with little happinesses. There’s more to it than that, but seriously, if you look at the Big Boy or Ho Ho the Buddha, it’s hard not to be amused no matter what mood you started in, especially if you’re me or me-like.

Moving on, Twiglet was a bonus pig. I acquired her mother Pammy, she’s still with me (for now, phew), and soon it became clear that she was knocked up. Depending on where you find your pigs, there’s a chance you will end up with a two month old teen mother. I wasn’t too worried about it beyond not knowing what kind of nutrition she’d been having up to the point when she came to me and how that might affect her ability to give birth or the health of her baby. I thought it was going to be two babies, it felt like two were kicking here, and, I mean, Murderface had three. That’s a lot for a first litter of guinea pigs. And so on August 16th, I set Pammy up in her little exercise run with some parsley to make sure she was staying active so birth wouldn’t be super hard on her and that she had snacks, took a ten minute shower, and came out to find Pammy hiding (never shocking, that’s like her job). I pulled the Mug Root Beer box off of her when it rustled, found two guinea pigs there, and promptly screamed. Pammy ran away. I may have told this story on here before, it was a pivotal moment. Twiglet stayed put. She was leaning to the right super hard, which was weird and I thought she might be dead. I probably scared her to death. I picked her up and saw that Pammy hadn’t finished cleaning her off, so I swiped the mucus away from her nose and her eyes and she was breathing. And leaning. Another very pivotal moment for me.

After the first couple of days I could see that she had a wonky foot (also pictured) and that’s why she leaned. She could sit up straightish eventually, but she could never walk like an adult guinea pig, she always hopped the way baby pigs do. Pammy never let me see her nurse, but Twiglet didn’t stop growing either. Twiglet became a pig who would sit with me and not always try to go off exploring. She hated everybody else in the herd and lived happily with her mother, until she developed symptoms of ovarian cysts and was spayed. Then she only wanted to hang out with her mother sometimes. She fell asleep a lot when I had her out, eyes fully shut (somewhat unusual for guinea pigs), with her little ears twitching away in her sleep. Because she was okay with just sitting there, I often had her out with me while grading, her little weight kept me from going nutballs. Anyone who cares about what they’re grading and/or their students’ potential to improve should be able to understand how nutballs it can make you.  One night, mid-class, I was sitting down with her to grade and I noticed she was breathing harder than usual. Two hours earlier she’d been absolutely fine. I took her to the vet, and then I took her again at four AM when I started to realize that she was going to die and that I wished they would have given her stronger medicine the first time I took her…and that was two years ago yesterday. Choose your anchors wisely, they will die of rapidly onsetting pneumonia on you. That took a turn. I’m going to hang out with Pammy and will probably never read that book again, even though I liked it.

A few days ago I saw a guinea pig on a rescue animals show, his name was Stephen, and he had bacterial pneumonia just like Tiggy. I knew he was going to die, but I hoped that I could learn something for the next time bacterial pneumonia comes to steal a pig. I didn’t learn anything and he did die. It just sucks that very little is or can be done for pigs in that situation. It’s not like they haven’t helped out myriad humans by being test animals. Although, when the rest of the herd showed symptoms after Twiglet passed, I did manage to get their situations under control and no other pigs died, I’m pretty proud of that desperate and horrible six weeks of giving them antibiotics and especially Thaddeus’ last x-ray that showed no fluid in his lungs whatsoever.

Twiglet. Anchor pig.

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