Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Finished Operators and Things a few days ago. This is a fascinating personal account of paranoid schizophrenia, and what really hit my spot was how the author handled the period of time when she was deep in a hallucinatory reality. Rather than framing her experiences as delusional, she captures them as reality for the bulk of the book, because as far as she was concerned at the time, they were reality. The shadowy gray figures that appear one night at the foot of her bed are actual physical beings. The strange instructions and threats from disembodied voices are real presences, and the actions taken at their direction make perfect sense. The descriptions of the nightmarish world of the Operators and of the oddly detached games they play on and with us (the Things) feel plausible and revelatory: the author has stumbled on the great secret of the universe. Only when the hallucinations recede and she becomes aware of her psychotic break are they seen for what they were. In fact, the final third of the book, dealing with recuperation and trying to understand what happened to her is comparatively weak after the eerie and compelling tale of the Operators.

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