Here are two concepts that make me want to read Mad, Bad & Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present by Lisa Appignanesi.
This, from Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, that I wrote down when I read it:
“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”
And then this, from Susan Eilenberg’s review of Mad, Bad & Sad in the London Review of Books:
“The Victorian hysteric’s mimicry of her own feminine helplessness – fainting, palpitating, panting, delirious, convulsing – exempted her, Appignanesi notes, from the domestic, social and sexual requirements she would otherwise have faced, and thereby won her a parody of independence.”
Mad, Bad & Sad came out last year in hardcover. W.W. Norton is bringing it out in paperback the end of August at half the price. The book intrigues and entices me for its delving into the complexities of recognizing and diagnosing mental illness in women over the past 200 years.
Eilenberg’s review says it’s confusing but fascinating and “contains more than it can reasonably account for or attend to,” and then proceeds to provide a list of included topics/conditions from hypochondrias to Calista Flockhart (I’m not kidding).
Daphne Merkin praised the book in the New York Sun and Kathryn Harrison in The New York Times when it came out in hardcover last year.
It’s madness for me to think I have time to read this book – it weighs in at the door-stopper category of 500+ pages. No no no, I tell myself. Still…