Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

August 01, 1993|KAREN STABINER

TOUCHED WITH FIRE by Kay Redfield Jamison. (The Free Press: $24.95, 370 pp.) June is a tough month for mania, according to one of the tables in this book, but suicide and depression ease off handsomely in July, so this is probably the perfect time to read a study of manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament. Writers who suffer from a bit of block or simple deadline phobia will be absolutely exhilarated to learn that their problems are nothing compared to what some of the heavy hitters have endured: Jamison suggests that genius and manic-depressive illness are easy companions, and that some of the greatest artists have been pretty sick kids. Jamison is a serious researcher and a more than decent writer, for an academic, and her subject holds a voyeuristic fascination; if the public didn't love to read about the trials and tribulations of celebrities, there wouldn't be such a thing as supermarket tabloids. It feels a bit like prying, at first, to read a list of troubled artists who either spent time in a psychiatric asylum or hospital, tried to kill themselves, and/or succeeded, but Jamison's intentions are as honorable as the tabloids' are trashy. And she raises a tricky question: If we cure manic-depression, do we deprive ourselves of great art?

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|