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Operators and Things: The Inner Life of a Schizophrenic (Abacus Books) Paperback – 19 Aug 1976

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Paperback, 19 Aug 1976
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£191.53 £12.94
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere; New edition edition (19 Aug. 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349126380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349126388
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 694,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

A detailed work on mental health and schizophrenia

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

I read this book just after paperback publication and it is still one of the most important books in the realm of mental health that I have ever read. I still use some of Barbara O'Brien's imagery to describe my own experience of the world I live in, albeit not as a schizophrenic, just another human survivor.... be prepared for the journey around your own psyche when you read this powerful book. I have not read the book for many years but recall some of the issues as akin to Kafka's "Trial", Pamuk's "Snow", Camus' "L'Etranger" and many other works pertaining to the world of state control upon our lives and the lack of freedom we all tolerate in this so-called (by those who seek to control us) democratic, civilised world which is so proud of its values and how we are all experiencing the gradual erosion of our civil liberties, as free-thinking individuals, so the book, which may have dated in some respects, really continues to reflect our ever-decreasing human rights.
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This easily gets into my top 5 books list - maybe number 1 because it's so under-rated (or maybe un-rated because so few people have heard of it). Barbara O' Brien doesn't seem to have written another book, which is a shame - maybe she's dead, maybe she's mentally incapable, maybe she has nothing else to say.

The book chronicles her descent into madness (and atypically her rapid ascent out of it). It starts with some background to her breakdown - the oppressive office environment she worked in. This section in itself is fascinating. Here she highlights all the underhand manoeuvrings her managers and colleagues operate to advance their careers - more than a touch of Machiavelli.

The rest of the book chronicles her travels around America whilst under the control of the voices in her head. I'm guessing sufferers of Schizophrenia don't usually have such an entertaining (for the reader) journey they could form into such a clear narrative - i'd assume memories would be more disjointed (if remembered at all). I like to think she hasn't embellished the story much - at times, the sheer terror she describes mark it as both unique and authentic.

This book works both as a work of fiction (with the imaginary characters in her head coming to life on the page) and an educational introduction to mental illness. However, instead of the dry facts and neurological features you would find in a text book you get to feel empathy: a true sense of the confusion and un/ultra-reality many of us are lucky enough to never experience.

This book has been out of print for a while. Searching the internet indicates it's fans are legion (and passionate) and it commands absurd prices second hand. About time for a reprint I would say. Barbara O Brien herself is an enigma/unknown. Anyone with any opinions or info please add a review.
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As the mother of a severely schizophrenic son, I read this book in an attempt to gain better understanding of what was going on in him. It gave me more than I'd bargained for, and I'm grateful for that.

The author starts by giving a brief description of what it's like to find oneself suddenly faced with a schizophrenic break, explaining how one's unconscious can produce concepts and images that somehow fit within one's own sense of the plausible. Thus, she shows you how it could happen to you.

Next, she tells of the events that led to her own break, using some of the imagery that becomes her reality during her six month experience with psychosis.

The third section describes her experience as a schizophrenic. It can be quite confusing to follow. My own suggestion is not to worry overmuch about that while reading - just go along for the ride.

The rest of the book reviews her recovery and her sense of how and why it happened. I found that the most interesting sections were near the end, "Hinton: Departmentalized Man", and the postscript written in 1975. It was in these places that Barbara O'Brien most clearly shows us her sense of how and why schizophrenia occurs. I think that any of us who try to be honest with ourselves and are not sociopaths must recognize how, given the right set of circumstances, it could happen to us. Hinton is the name of the personality that the author's unconscious had given to the part of her she'd suppressed and feared, and whose suppression had prevented her being able to deal with a miserable and untenable work situation. It was her experience in schizophrenia to learn how to integrate this character into herself.
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I found this book to be incredible. To see what a schizophrenic sees is very astounding. And to follow this woman on her long journey, being led around by these beings that only she could see, was a ride in itself. That she came out of it safe, and sound, is amazing.

The thing is that those that she saw, the operators and hook operators described people that we see every day. And the descriptions of them and what they do were also relevant to how the predatory types in our world operate. It's almost as if she could see 'behind the scenes' at what is really going on in our world.

This is a great book and the fact that it is true makes it even more spectacular.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read 18 May 2013
By Raybo - Published on Amazon.com
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This was ordered to replace a copy that had been read to death, literally. I'm glad it happened because this later edition is in better format than the old one. If you know anyone who has mental illness problems, this book will give some insight into what they experience.
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