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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted (original 1993; edition 2000)

by Susanna Kaysen

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6,2271001,025 (3.62)119
In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele--Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles--as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.… (more)
Title:Girl, Interrupted
Authors:Susanna Kaysen
Info:Virago Press Ltd (2000), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:misc, women

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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (1993)


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Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
As a suicidal 18-year old, the author was committed for 18 months to a psychiatric hospital. I thought her descriptions of mental illness were really insightful:
"Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast....The predominant quality of the slow form is viscosity. Experience is thick. Perceptions are thickened and dulled. Time is slow, dripping slowly through the clogged filter of thickened perception. The body temperature is low. The pulse is sluggish. The immune system is half asleep. The organism is torpid and brackish. Even the reflexes are diminished, as if the lower leg couldn't be bothered to jerk itself out of its stupor when the knee is tapped.
Viscosity occurs on a cellular level. And so does velocity..."
She tells of life in a hospital; her fellow patients; she ponders on brain v mind, on how the 'mad' seem to the normal folk around them.
Very well written. ( )
  starbox | Jun 19, 2019 |
“Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen
Book Review

What interests a person when he/she reads a book? Is it the plot? Is it the character development? Is it the excitement and thrill? Is it maybe the way one can relate to a book? “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen is a memoir that may or may not be for you depending on your own interests. This book is all about the period of time in which a teenage girl enters a psychiatric hospital for having a borderline personality disorder. It doesn’t involve thrill, or action, or an intense rising action, or even an exciting climax, but it is a very insightful memoir on the damaged mind of a teenage girl. It focuses on thoughts, storytelling, and ideas. Her use of rhetorical diction contributes to the complex and and contradictory inner world the author lives in everyday at her ward. And although, this book might not be super thrilling, it is a very thought provoking book on a perception of someone who is has a personality disorder.
When reading a memoir, or really any book, some might say that the relation to the story is what captures an audience's attention. In “Girl, Interrupted” the relation to this book would have to come from someone who has maybe undergone some of the same situations Susanna Kaysen has gone through. Kaysen starts the book off with a very interesting statement on parallel universes. “And it's easy to slip into a parallel universe. There are so many of them: worlds of the insane, the criminal, the crippled, the dying...” (Toward a Topography of the Parallel Universe). Susanna Kaysen constantly explains what's it's like to live in the mind of a damaged teenage girl. As she continues to live in the mental hospital and undergo new situations, she begins to discover how her mind works and why people like her wouldn’t function in the “normal” world. “In the worlds terms, though, all of us were tainted,” (Stigmotography). In every chapter Susanna explains a new concept of being part of a sane world. She uses metaphors and other devices to represent her feelings and perceptions of her own separate reality from the worlds. It is quite easy to understand why she might say something like, “It’s a mean world… there's nobody to take care of you out there,” (Freedom) or “ suicide is a form of premeditated murder,” (My Suicide), but it might not be something all readers would be able to enjoy or even relate to on any level. But, if you are someone who enjoys, relates to, or even someone who is open minded to different perceptions of reality, then this book is for you.
“Girl, Interrupted” is a memoir that focuses on Susanna Kaysen all while she’s in the same, old, boring mental hospital almost throughout the books entirety. The plot mainly focuses on her thoughts about the ward and the new people she meets there. As Susanna lives at the mental hospital, there is nothing to do besides watch television, talk to other hospital patients, or talk to her therapist. She is often left to just sit in her room and think about life at the ward or her own personal thoughts on life in general. Susanna makes many remarks and comments on life that may be thought provoking to the audience. Throughout the book she is always asking herself questions about the sane and insane universes, like, “Was sanity just a matter of dropping the act?” (Elementary Topography) or, “What is it about cadence and meter and rhythm that makes their makers mad?” (The Prelude to Ice Cream). These questions show the contradiction she faces when thinking about her problems. Throughout the story she shows her confliction and how it affects her way of thinking. “Once these thoughts must have had meaning. They must have meant what they said. But repetition has blunted them,” (Velocity vs. Viscosity). Having written down so many questions and conclusions to her own thinking, it causes the reader to look back on Susanna’s thoughts and relate to them (if they can). It makes the reader undergo a deeper sense of thinking, not just about the daily confrontations we all face, but what we usually don’t notice during the busy day. Even if you can’t draw any parallels to Susanna on a personal level, her opinions and comments are something anyone can resonate with. It really brings up an eye opening revelation that can get the author to ponder about mental institutions and mental illness.
While some people enjoy long books or very organized and fluent transitions, “Girl, Interrupted” is not one of those books. Susanna Kaysen doesn’t organize her entries in a way that is fluent or connected to past chapters. The chapters aren't in some sort of chronological order and the there isn’t a linear plot. If you are someone who likes to read a story that is disjointing and super short, then this memoir is for you. When reading this book, there are no chapter numbers, but only titles for each new entry such as, “Bare Bones” or “New Frontiers in Dental Health.” Susanna Kaysen also includes random doctor entry notes in between chapters, sometimes not relating to anything she talks about. Susanna Kaysen has conducted a very unique syntax and entry placement for her book. Although Kaysen composes very poetic essays offering alternative yet beautiful perspectives in her memoir, it includes very brief descriptions and has no sense of an introduction or conclusion. If you're one to enjoy a memoir that gives short concepts or cuts straight to the point, “Girl, Interrupted” is your type of book.
“Girl, Interrupted” is a subtle, brief memoir that provokes more thought than any kind of thrill or excitement from the audience. Depending on who you are as a person and what you are interested in, you may or may not find it relatable or interesting at all. It may seem short and inconsistent, but Kaysen does make the book very eye opening and sometimes very poetic. Her use of metaphors and other rhetorical devices allows her to create a theme that makes the book powerful and insightful. So, if you enjoy memoirs you can relate to with exciting climax’s and fluent organization, then “Girl, Interrupted” just might not be the right book for your entertainment. ( )
  brianna_02 | Dec 17, 2018 |
You won’t hear me say this very often but...this translates better into a movie rather than a book. After I read this I just thought, “what was the point?” It didn’t really have a story line or an ending. I can see why the movie had different stories added to it to make it interesting. She’s just an okay writer and it was just kind of...meh. ( )
  thisismelissaanne | Oct 29, 2018 |
I was a little disappointed with this book. However, I started reading it with high expectations because I absolutely loved the movie. The characters in the book aren't as well developed and the book kind of jumps around from one thing to the next. I'm the type of person that likes solid plots though, so.... I would consider this more of a diary than a memoir or anything of the sort. Honestly, I think I'm going to stick to watching the movie with this one. ( )
  Borrows-N-Wants | Sep 22, 2018 |
Ok my opinion of this book is a bit biased & 1 sided simply for the fact that being locked away in a mental institution is my greatest fear. It's literally my idea of hell and damnation. The author writes the story simply and tells it like it is. Interesting how the main character is diagnosed with BPD but later equates her actions as nothing more than adolescent behavior. She even goes on to be released from the institution and leads a normal life. Perhaps this book is less about a character with mental illness and more about a wrongly diagnosed teenaged girl. ( )
  TheReadingMermaid | Apr 9, 2018 |
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