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The Eden Express: A Memoir of Schizophrenia Paperback – 1 Nov 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press,U.S.; New edition edition (1 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583225439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583225431
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 263,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By SmellyJellyBelly on 18 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
In this book, first published in 1975, Mark Vonnegut recounts his adventures of 1969 - 1971. Vonnegut, a recent religion graduate, and friends set out to an isolated area of British Columbia and establish a farm-cum-hippy commune. All goes swimmingly well until Vonnegut develops a mental illness, later diagnosed as schizophrenia. After 3 separate "breakdowns" and two stays in a mental hospital, the author abandons the farm, his alternative lifestyle and even his beloved dog, and re-enters society.

Firstly, as a look at counter culture, the hippy ideal and the political and social backdrop of sixties America, the book excels. Thanks to the author's writing style, this also stands up as a straightforward, readable and enjoyable adventure tale. However one would expect a book with such a title to provide some sort of insight into the experience of mental illness. This it does, but in a very bizarre fashion. Vonnegut attempts to recount what he was thinking while he was ill in a verbatim manner. The advantage of this approach is that it offers an unfiltered, unabated view of what the author was experiencing. Vonnegut doesn't let his later rationalisations and interpretations interfere with his vivid descriptions. Unfortunately, this style also makes for, at times, a very confusing read. As the author's thoughts become frankly nonsensical, so does the text.

Undoubtedly the author does a commendable job of describing the thoughts he had while he was ill. He describes his other `symptoms' reasonably well too. However, throughout the book I was wondering why I (someone who has experienced psychosis) had so much difficulty relating to the author's experiences of his illness.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James on 2 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
Mark Vonneguts book on his journey into mental illness is a brilliantly told tale of personal experience and it offers insights into the hippie culture. It is essential reading for anyone interested in psycology, countercultures and a good read.
The only danger of this book is hypocondria because it is written in such a honest manner.
I've read this book many times and it is a constant reference in my daily life, it offers a kind of hope and understanding not normally found in a non fiction book.
Reading up on this subject manner is often clinical and it often fails as the whole point of mental illness of any kind is that it rarely is linear or specific.
What this book offers is an emotional account which although should not be taken as gospel, is alot more accessible and is a tool in the development of understanding. if only more people would read this book then i think the world would be a lot more tolerable and considerate.
So thankyou Mr Vonnegut
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a pretty scary look into the mind of a schizophrenic, from his shakily maintained environment as a late 1960s hippie to his complete psychotic breakdown. It is the worst possible thing you could imagine happening to your child I think, a waking nightmare: Vonnegut describes, with startling talent, his visions. Many of them are remarkable, from a face coming towards him until he is lost in one of its pores, to intimate interactions with angels, while resurfacing in reality every so often. Not only is the horror and lack of control brought to life, but so is the beauty and untapped potential of the human mind, such as his recitation of Moby Dick from memory.

While many of the reviewers scorn the author as a silly naif, I find him sympathetic and brilliant, indeed courageous to explore and expose himself in this way. In the process, he debunks a lot of what was common talk of the period, such as the society and not the individual being "sick" or the total freedom that he thought he could find. Thus, it is a lament on the illusions of the time and about growing up, issues that many critics of the 1960s would do beter to acknowledge. I was also a Vonnegut fan, so the inights into his family interested me.

It is but one window, of course, into a horrible state of existence. Recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Fletcher on 25 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Hey, brilliant.

Gives you a great insight into latent schizophrenia - especially paranoia, it shows how one simple thourght (or worry) can kick start a whole TRIP of insane paranoia which can develop into severe hallucinogenic visuals.

Paranoia of paranoia.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 70 reviews
59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating first-person recollection of insanity 3 Sept. 2002
By Bill R. Moore - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'll be honest with you: I read Mark Vonnegut's book because he is Kurt Vonnegut's son. The elder Mr. Vonnegut mentions it one of his books (I don't remember which one, but I'm pretty sure it's Fates Worse Than Death, or maybe Timequake), and I probably would never have picked it up (or even heard of it) otherwise. That said, it is a fascinating and very delightful book, full of insight and well worth reading. Not many books tackle the admittedly difficult issue of describing insanity from the inside out (i.e., in the form of a first-person recollection), and this book is truly useful for those looking for such a work. It's hard to imagine anyone doing it better. I can see this as a practical "must read" for medical professionals looking to identify more closely with their patients, or for anyone who just wants a more personal account of the subject matter than that often offered by dry, sterile medical textbooks. Mark's writing style is quite good, but also highly personal. He doesn't seem aloof or like somebody with whom we can't identify (as many people who have experienced mental illnesses inevitably do): he seems like just one of us. The emotions and problems he was going through are certainly things that many of us can relate to (especially those of us who lived through the times that the the book describes) - although the cause for his schizophrenia was never, of course, fully discovered, a lot of things, as Mark says, "happened all at once": his steady girlfriend cheating on him, his parents breaking up, his father becoming famous. Although Mark's writing style is nothing like his father's, the two do share a similar sense of humor. This, coupled with the delightfully personal aspect of the prose, makes this a great read for those interested in its subject matter. Reccommended.
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Scary 25 Nov. 2000
By R. Wallace - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mark Vonnegut went through three severe schizophrenic episodes in the early '70's, yet is able to maintain a sense of humor about what befell him. At that time, in his early 20's, he was going through his hippie phase, living with friends on a farm in Canada. Everyone, including Vonnegut, seemed to think what hit him was the result of oppressive society, as explained by the silly writings of ain't-no-mental-illness Thomas Szasz and the even sillier ones of mental-illness-can-be-a-good-thing R.D. Laing. Yet it turns out he was sufferering from a biochemical disorder, possibly brought on my malnutrition. What brought him back to reality was commitment to a mental hospital and some Thorazine, followed by some rather massive doses of vitamins and a better diet. I've never quite read anything like this. His descriptions of how schizophrenia crept up on him and how he thought there was nothing wrong with him, even when he was babbling gibberish, not eating and sleeping for days, are priceless. Although written in 1975, it is still relevant today, and very much worth reading.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A great schizophrenia memoir 19 Mar. 2003
By Avery Z. Conner - Published on
Format: Paperback
There are only a handful of memoirs about schizophrenia, and this book and "The Quiet Room" are probably the best ones available. The author apparently inherited his father's excellent writing and storytelling abilities, as this is an engaging and insightful description of life in the 1960s and the descent into and emergence from schizophrenia. The description of the illness alone makes the book worth reading, and is in some ways reminiscent of "Darkness Visible" and "The Bell Jar". The book is also quite humorous. Highly recommended. Avery Z. Conner, author of "Fevers of the Mind".
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Amazing Insight! 8 Jan. 2003
By "mom2aidan" - Published on
Format: Paperback
I had taken several classes in psychology in college and really thought that I had a grasp of what it was like to live with schizophrenia. Not so! This book takes you into the world and mind of a person with this disorder. Mark Vonnegut is so honest and open and you really gain a real world feel for what it is to be a person living with schizophrenia. If you are at all interested in this topic, I really feel it is a must read!
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A terribly compelling and incredible story 25 Feb. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Two years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and have since been put on medication and fully recovered. My therapist suggested that I read Mark Vonnegut's telling of the descent into schizophrenia. I've read other accounts of schizophrenia, but Mark's definitely takes the cake in terms of realism. I'm not even sure if I can finish the book, the book is so unsettling for me. If someone you care about has schizophrenia, read this book, it will help you understand what this disease does.
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