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Mount Misery Paperback – 2 Jan 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Paperback, 2 Jan 1999
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Product details

  • Paperback: 570 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (2 Jan. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552998133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552998130
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,489,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"'An engrossing read...darkly entertaining...One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest for the 90s'" (San Diego Union Tribune)

"'Provocative, complex and disturbing...[Shem] writes with enough passion that we care and enough wisdom that we are able to understand'" (American Oxonian)

"'Outrageously funny...a sage and important book'" (The Boston Globe) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A blackly comic tour de force which does for psychiatrists what Catch-22 did for war. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Samuel Shem's The House Of God was mandatory reading as a house officer/intern (as I was when I read it), in the dark days when as a newly qualified doctor you felt alone, put-upon and frightened. It highlighted a lot of the absurdities of hospital medical practice while ramming home, urgently and compassionately, the message that other people have been through this, it's hell, but you can come through the other side. Wherever you work as a doctor, the US or the UK or elsewhere, the first book is essential.
Now, Shem (and the pseudonym's understandable, if not forgiveable) takes on the psychiatric establishment. Anybody who has worked in psychiatry, anywhere in the world, will find elements of truth in Mount Misery, and anyone who has fought against a lot of the stupidity and dogma portrayed so starkly in this book and carried on regardless, will find that the novel's central ethos, expressed particularly in the last few chapters, will get right up his or her nose. Shem tackles various theoretical viewpoints, artfully portrayed as the hero, Dr Roy Basch, whom many of us encountered in the first book, rotates through different placements in his first year as a psychiatric resident (equivalent in most respects to the senior house officer or SHO grade in Britain). The author systematically and vividly rips apart the thinking underlying the blind adherence of so many psychiatrists to two of the most pervasive doctrines, namely the psychodynamic (broadly, Freudian) and phenomenological (mainstream or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)). He concludes that effective psychiatry consists of 'connecting' with the patient in a way that he leaves relatively undefined.
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Format: Paperback
Having thoroughly enjoyed House of God, I was intrigued to see what light Shen might shed on the darker aspects of psychiatry.
Mount Misery continues on chronologically from House of God, so it makes sense to read them in that order, if you fancy both.
Dr Roy Basch, shell-shocked and battle scarred from his stint in the House of God hospital decides to specialise in psychiatry, hoping for a quieter life and a chance to regain his shattered faith in the medical profession. The novel charts his journey through the fairground hall of mirrors that is Mount Misery mental hospital.
Fasten your seatbelts, and prepare for a wild ride through the crazy world of the head-doctors who are truly mad, bad and dangerous to know!
Mount Misery is a gem, luring you in with laugh-out-loud gallows humour, then hitting you over the head with what really goes on in modern psychiatry, and the outrages against humanity perpetuated daily on the most vulnerable amongst us.
As someone who has a fair amount of insider knowledge, I was delighted that Shen chose to reveal and condemn some of the more distasteful habits some shrinks choose to indulge in- it certainly cheered me up no end!
Highly effective is Shen's enthusiastic depiction of many of the faintly ridiculous theories that abound within the profession, creating scenarios both surreal and absurd, a kind of psychiatric Magical Mystery Tour, which manages to be shocking and blackly entertaining in equal measure.
I found the concluding passages slightly irritating, but that is a minor issue, and does not detract in the least from the book as a whole.
Mount Misery is a heady mix of wild comedy and dark truths, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Stuck for a present to give the shrink in your life? Look no further!
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Format: Paperback
Mount Misery doesn't come up to the high standards of Shem's first book, "The House of God". Despite that it is a fascinating account of the personal development of a young pyschiatrist's first year of training at a prestigous East Coast private psychiatric hospital, his own personal development and the development of his relationship with his long term not quite live-in lover.
For the British reader the novel provides a chilling insight into the working of an insurance based health care system, with the perpetual struggle of the medics trying to get funding for the care of particular from the apparatchiks at the Insurance company or the Health Maintenance Organisation who authorise the payement for their health care forming a recurrent theme. Since primary care groups are HMOs by another name, is this novel a warning of what those working in hospitals in England & Wales are going to have to face up to as the latest set of health service reforms start to bite?
This is an excellent book that should be read by everyone involved in training young doctors, young doctors in training (any specialty, not just psychiatry), in providing or managing health services or who might finish up needing to claim on their health insurance.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Stephen Bergman, aka Samuel Shem, did his medical internship at a large, academic hospital in Boston after graduating from Harvard Medical School. The experiences of his internship served as the basis for his 1984 novel, THE HOUSE OF GOD, starring his alter ego, Dr. Roy Basch. In GRACEFULLY INSANE, a narrative history of McLean Hospital, the mental health facility traditionally serving Boston's upper crust, author Alex Beam notes that Bergman did his psychiatry residency at McLean. Presumably, this and subsequent experiences in the field, enabled Bergman to write MOUNT MISERY, the further adventures of Dr. Basch during his first year of training at the fictional Mount Misery psychiatric hospital.
MOUNT MISERY is billed as a dark comedy. And perhaps the first half of the book is just that. Then it becomes decidedly more serious - Bergman's indictment of what he perceives as the flaws, and indeed malpractice, within institutionalized mental health care: assembly line admissions with diagnoses designed to mine the maximum in insurance payments, over-reliance on unproven drug regimens to make patients "better", the emphasis on fund raising rather than medicine, the superegos of the "experts" that focus on appearances in medical journals and at international seminars instead of compassionate patient care, and the total hogwash (to Bergman, apparently) of Freudian analysis. Indeed, the author's criticism of institutional psychiatry evolves to a very sharp point, i.e. the sexual abuse of patients by their physician therapists, and the protection of the latter by the medical establishment. This is not the stuff of humor, dark or otherwise.
I still might have given MOUNT MISERY four stars but for several reasons.
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