An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness.
By Kay Redfield Jamison. Knopf. 224 pp. $22
Memoir is deceptive. On the surface, it appears to be the easiest of genres. No research, no footnotes, no argument. Just write down what happened. But in the depths, where the motley ingredients of a life bubble together, memoir becomes a witch's brew difficult to stir.
In this memoir, Jamison, a distinguished psychiatrist specializing in manic-depressive illness, peers into the cauldron of her own prolonged struggle with the disease. "It has been a fascinating, albeit deadly, enemy and companion," she writes. "I have found it to be seductively complicated, a distillation both of what is finest in our natures, and of what is most dangerous."
Jamison confesses to the difficulty of speaking as both patient and doctor. Unfortunately, this does not prevent her from interrupting the flow of her narrative to engage in professional shoptalk or (worse) to share the details of her curriculum vitae. Nevertheless, this is a brave book. At its best, it makes vivid not only the pain of manic-depressive illness but also--most strikingly--its pleasure:
"How could one, should one, recapture . . . the gliding through starfields and dancing along the rings of Saturn, the zany manic enthusiasms? How can one ever bring back the long summer days of passion, the remembrance of lilacs, ecstasy, and gin fizzes that spilled down over a garden wall, and the peals of riotous laughter that lasted until the sun came up or the police arrived?"