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The Eden Express: A Personal Account of Schizophrenia (original 1975; edition 1975)

by Mark Vonnegut

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526919,198 (3.76)21
Member:bibliowiles
Title:The Eden Express: A Personal Account of Schizophrenia
Authors:Mark Vonnegut
Info:Praeger (1975), Edition: Uncorrected Proof, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:schizophrenia, mental illness, hippies, Swarthmore College, British Columbia

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The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity by Mark Vonnegut (1975)

  1. 00
    The Loony-Bin Trip by Kate Millett (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Different writing style, but both are interesting explorations of mental illness vs. the celebration of what is unique about each of us. Both books are by authors who are (or were) off the mainstream at one point in their life. The difference is that Kate Millett rejects the "medical model" of mental illness, whereas Mark Vonnegut believes that medication provides the stability necessary for him to be happy.… (more)
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Around 1970 soon after finishing college, Mark Vonnegut and assorted college friends left the East for British Columbia to fulfill a dream of living off the land, the classic hippie fantasy. They find a beautiful isolated (12 mile boat ride) farm for sale cheap near Powell River and set up camp, working like demons repairing the house, clearing and planting a garden, getting goats.... All seems to be going brilliantly, when Mark succumbs to a full blown psychotic episode. I vaguely remember hearing about The Eden Express years ago; it would come up sometimes when discussing people who never fully recovered from tripping - people who, I see now, had a vulnerability and might well have with other stresses succumbed to an episode without any drugs. His friends tried their best to cope, the ethic of the day obliged them to, but at last he was committed in Vancouver. Back then Mark was diagnosed as schizophrenic, now he has been diagnosed as bipoloar and while neither is desirable, the latter is a preferable diagnosis, as the long-term prognosis is better. Among the many strengths of the memoir, Mark's 'voice' and his uncompromising description of what he can recall of what was going on in his head that year, as he first moved to B.C., and slowly but steadily went downhill under the pressure of 'doing it right', from what is recognizable now as a steady manic high that was sustaining him at first to a dissociative state in which he would be sure those he loved were dead, the world was coming to an end....(culminating in 'blanks' of which he remembers nothing). It is clear that a good deal of the time Mark had a strong awareness of what was happening and some realization that he needed help. He is wonderfully candid and sometimes very funny about his own weaknesses. Another strength and a hugely important one is Mark's articulation of the absolute sincerity of those who made the effort he and his friends did to become self-sufficient, to stop harming others and the earth, to find a new way to live, and that many, like him, who threw themselves entirely into this effort emerged wiser, yes, but also scarred. **** ( )
  sibyx | Jul 22, 2014 |
I'm glad to see that this is back in print. I'm not sure that the diagnosis of schizophrenia is accurate (I lean more toward bipolar disorder with a hefty dose of illicit substances to muddy the waters), but it's still an excellent memoir. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
A favorite from college when I was a psychology major, I recently re-read the book having long ago switched to another field. The book is still good though. For me it covers two interesting topics: communes and insanity. I was old enough at the time to think hippies were cool but not old enough to participate, so reading about their commune is part of the draw for me.

The other part, of course, is how experience and dealt with insanity. The key lesson from the book is that it is a biochemical problem, not something going wrong in your mind. Vonnegut had been a fan of Thomas Szasz and R.D. Laing, but found there really is something physical to mental illness. There are other useful lessons from the book, but I don't want to spoil too much.

He does ramble on a lot about what was going on during his periods of insanity, and I'll admit to some skimming so that I could get to the point. I wonder how he remembered so much detail from then, although I suppose there was a lot more that he didn't remember.

You can learn what happened to Vonnegut after the book by reading the Wikipedia article about him. ( )
  lemuel | Aug 15, 2010 |
very dragged out ( )
  rolyat | Jun 16, 2010 |
Very scary, very visceral description of Vonnegut's struggles w/ schizophrenia. I feel a little guilty about being so entertained by someone else's suffering, but this is why Behind the Music is so successful.
Mark's writing deals much more w/ internal action than his dad's. He spends a lot of time studying his own perceptions of and reactions to the world around him. His writing becomes very ominous in that you can never tell when the walls are going to gradually start melting and the giant laughing purple face will show up again. Very different than Kurt's holistic rejection of suspense. ( )
1 vote danconsiglio | Apr 1, 2010 |
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Epigraph
It is a better thing to travel hopefully than it is to arrive.
-- R. L. Stevenson
Dedication
To Mark Adin Boles. If not for you I wouldn't have bothered to fight.
To my father. Without you I wouldn't have known how to fight.
To J. Ross MacLean. Without you I never would have stopped fighting.
First words
June 1969: Swarthmore Graduation.
Quotations
Realizing I was crazy didn't make the crazy stuff stop happening.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553027557, Mass Market Paperback)

Cover shows ordinary signs of shelf wear and use, but all pages are clean, bright and intact. SHIPS NEXT BUSINESS DAY!

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:36 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The Eden Express describes from the inside Mark Vonnegut's experience in the late '60s and early '70s - a recent college grad; in love; living communally on a farm, with a famous and doting father, cherished dog, and prized jalopy - and then the nervous breakdowns in all their slow-motion intimacy, the taste of mortality and opportunity for humor they provided, and the grim despair they afforded as well. That he emerged to write this funny and true book and then moved on to find the meaningful life that for a while had seemed beyond reach is what ultimately happens in The Eden Express. But the real story here is that throughout his harrowing experience his sense of humor let him see the humanity of what he was going through, and his gift of language let him describe it in such a moving way that others could begin to imagine both its utter ordinariness as well as the madness we all share."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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