Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nervous System - Jan L Jensen

Disclaimer: The author of this book is a friend of mine, and therefore, my review is probably a little biased.

The Basics: Nervous System or Losing My Mind in Literature, Jan Lars Jensen, 2004, 273 pages, paperback

How I found it: As previously mentioned, the author is a friend of mine. I've known him for a few years and I finally got around to reading his book.

What's it about?: This book is a memoir about the author's experience with mental illness. As the publication date for his first book, Shiva 3000, drew nearer, Jensen slipped further and further into an episode of psychosis. He became convinced that the religious undertones of his science fiction novel would set off a chain of events that would result in a major global disaster. He stopped sleeping and became increasingly out of touch with reality. Jensen's psychosis culminated in a suicide attempt that landed him the psych ward of the local hospital. His book chronicles the portion of his life that led up to and followed his time in the hospital. He tells his story in a style that allows the reader to get inside his head and understand what he went through.

Did I like it?: I really enjoyed this book. It was like nothing I have ever read before. When we say that someone is 'crazy' I don't think we really know what that means. After reading Jensen's book I feel as though I have a better understanding. At the same time, now that I have a better understanding, I find the whole idea much more terrifying because I realize how easy it is to slip away from reality. Jensen also writes very well and has structured the book in a manner that is very engaging.

Will you like it?: If you know someone with mental illness (which you probably do), or you are interested in mental illness, I think this is a great book to read. It is well written, and presents a great counter-point to the mostly clinical information on mental illness usually given in the mainstream media because it really humanizes the experience.

But don't take my word for it: The usual collection of publisher-approved reviews and reader reviews from Amazon, a review from The Guardian, and a collection of reviews from the author's website.

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