The past two days, I have been to three bookstores and two libraries and have, for a very reasonable price, bought and borrowed a good many books I’ll be reflecting on in “The Study” chapter of my spiritual memoir. These include –
21 Essential American Short Stories (edited by Leslie M. Pockell). This has the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlott Perkins Gillman in it. Gillman’s story depicts a woman’s descent into postpartum psychosis. This was recommended by several readers.
Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra (translated by Walter Starkie). An all-time classic I read in college. I bought this not so much to view Don Quixote’s visions as “delusions of grandeur” as to re-live the thrill of going to battle against windmill dragons with a faithful Sancho Panza by my side.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Kaysen describes her experience as 18-year old psychiatric patient at the famous McLean Hospital (where Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles also received treatment).
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. W.C. Minor submitted more than ten thousand definitions to the Oxford English Dictionary while he was an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters. This oversized art book contains many of Van Gogh’s classic paintings as well as excerpts of his letters about them.
Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh edited by Irving Stone. “These letters reveal… a desperate man whose quest for love became a flight into madness for whom every day was a ‘fight for life.'”
Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. “Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius.”
Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Connie Ann Kirk. In this slender volume, Kirk traces Plath’s productive yet turbulent life and career.
Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words by Steven Gould Axelrod. I picked this up mainly because I loved the title. The jacket liner describes it as a “biography of the imagination, an inner narrative of the poet’s life and work.
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 edited by Karen V. Kukil. This covers the period from when she was 18, until shortly before her death.
I’ve also ordered a used (first-edition) copy of Plath’s The Bell Jar, which should be in within a week.
I’ve managed to collect all these resources for around $50 (including the cost of gas. Not bad. (Now if I just had the room to store them.)
My plans are, in the next two weeks to read everything I can on Van Gogh and Plath and then compose three essays (one on each of them and one on Kay Redfield Jamison) by May 31. Beyond that, I will steadily add one paragraph reviews of other resources to the “On the Shelf” section of “The Study”.
Again, thanks to all who have submitted recommendations for books, movies, stories, music, and art work depicting mental illness (especially Bip0lar). If you think of more, keep them coming. I plan to be working on this for some time.
(image above “The cutest man at a local bookstore” from Rachel Roy in Rachel’s Spain Travel Diary – Launch of RRR in Spain!)