Book Review: Out of It
(Column: Veterans' Issues: The Long Walk Home)
It’s too hard to follow this story
I have read several books about people struggling with a mental illness including Call Me Anna by Patty Duke, An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, Welcome Silence by Carol North, Darkness Visible by William Styron and Is There No Place on Earth for Me?, by Susan Sheehan. I became deeply attached to the narrators of these books as their stories unfolded; I laughed and cried and was able to relate their experiences to my own. I felt no connection with the narrator of Out of It.
Out of It is an anonymous narrative that rambles through seven months in the life of a man diagnosed with schizophrenia. Many of his delusions concern his former girlfriend Amelia, who he literally seems to see everywhere: on the street, at work and in his dreams. If you had a friend who began every conversation with stories about how much he missed his former girlfriend, you'd begin to tune him out. As a reader I quickly became fed up with his obsession and stopped listening.
The structure of the book is also very off-putting; the author sometimes writes whole paragraphs without periods. As an example, this convoluted passage is an entire chapter,
“Since I was living inside a cyber-world that was controlled by laboratories, whenever I received new ideas, the scientists were entering much-needed messages in the form of movie-clips of things that I didn't know, into my memory….The next two data inputs were the only ones that followed after the first one about when I found the head in the trashcan. During that one I didn't know that it was from the dream-men. The following two movies-clips were the only remaining that I had during the first episode, but during the second and most traumatic episode, these data-inputs became constant.”
I for one can’t make heads or tails of that!
Too often, the reader is unable to follow the course of events; by the end of the book we still have very little understanding of the narrator. We don't know who he is and why he thinks his story is important enough to share. All that we learn about his recovery is that his sister helped him get admitted to a mental hospital in Norman, Oklahoma, where he was stabilized on medications after nine weeks. We don't know what he learned from this experience or why these particular medications worked.
At $16.95, this is a wildly overpriced book that could use the services of a good editor. Price is a major sticking point because it's far more than you would pay for any of the biographies I listed earlier. My advice is to avoid Out of It. You'll be glad that you did.