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Memoirs From The Asylum Paperback – 1 May 2010
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About the Author
A psychologist and pastoral counselor, Kenneth Weene has used that professional experience in this, his second novel. Ken and his wife live in Phoenix where he devotes himself to writing and enjoying life.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is a novel structured like a memoir. The story begins in first person as told by one of the patients in the asylum then it switches to third person to tell about other patients as well as doctors. Yet the events still seem to be filtered through the perspective of the main narrator. This technique blurs the distinction between reality and fantasy in a way that leaves the reader with an excellent picture of a mental patient's world. Marilyn, a catatonic patient, is living her life in a fantasy world she's found within a crack in the sheetrock on her bedroom wall. Further on in the book another character, a doctor, appears to see the world Marilyn has created.
The pages of Memoirs from the Asylum are filled with strange, but intriguing characters. There's a patient named Allan who is content to spend his time staring at catatonic Marilyn. There's an air-guitarist who carries an empty guitar case everywhere he goes and another patient whose act of violence with a chair kills one of the doctors. And there are the fantasy characters such as Eric, the younger brother of Marilyn who somehow transforms into a dog and Timmy Wang, who exits Marilyn's story but leaves a body part behind.
The language in Weene's book can be outrageous at times, but it can also switch at any moment to elegant, beautiful descriptions. Here, for example, is one way Ken Weene describes life in the asylum.
If jazz is the music of life, how can we describe the music of the asylum? Discordant, raucous, lacking in form, it is the music of a creeping, groaning machine. The sound does not uplift, nor does it invite introspection. Its emotions are anxiety and loss. It is not sad, because it does not care. Wheels squeal in resistance to one another, off-key notes of electric energy fill the air like errant bolts of lightning from a demented god. Bangs and crashes of doors and tempers provide erratic tympani. One cannot dance in the asylum. However much one may whirl about the dayroom, it is not dancing. Dancing requires freedom. Music, real music, requires freedom.
Steve Lindahl - Author of Motherless Soul
This story tells you. Although it is written as a novel, it comes from the author's training as a teacher, pastoral and in psychology and then having worked in a mental institution. His writing gives the reader insight into the thoughts of the caregivers, the strain and disappointments of those medical personnel who strive so hard to cure their patients and how it can affect their own mental and emotional self. He opens the secret folds of the mentally ill, covering several of the more well known illnesses, which can be startling, to say the least, because there is so much concentration on the bodily functions. He stresses what is generally known that sex plays an important role in mental illness.
His story begins with a schizophrenic who narrates much of the story. One of the most difficult patients for the young resident doctor is a woman named Marilyn who is catatonic for years, and then one day, snaps out of it. In the end the schizophrenic becomes well enough that he is discharged.
Based on the statement by the author, his intention is to open windows into these areas for those of us who care or are even curious. In many ways the story is depressing for there seems to be little in the way of happiness and, yet, many of the patients are not unhappy. They live in environments of their own making where they have created happiness, although for many of us, their worlds would be incongruous.
For those readers who would like to enter the kingdoms of some of the mentally ill, from their standpoint, then I heartily recommend this book.
This is not an easy book to read but it is one that speaks truth from the institutions of our day. It could be viewed as a metaphor for our world.