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Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania


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About the Author

Andy Behrman is a manic depressive who has undergone nineteen electroshock treatments. He has worked as a PR agent and an art dealer. His writing has been featured most recently in "The New York Times Magazine." A graduate of Wesleyan University, he knows most of the all-night diners and after-hours bars in the major cities across the country. He currently lives mania-free on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You can reach him at "From the Hardcover edition."


Behrman here adds to the crowded genre of mental illness autobiography, which is inhabited by so many fine titles (including Andrew Solomon's An Atlas of Depression, which just won a National Book Award) that new entries must provide a different perspective or superior writing to merit a place on library shelves. Presumably, what is novel here is Behrman's focus on the manic aspect of bipolar disorder and on electroshock therapy. Behrman's tale of an out-of-control life of art forgery, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, and eventual incarceration is told in a straightforward and forthright fashion, if a bit repetitiously. Throughout the saga, he seems to have unlimited funds, even when living on disability benefits, so clearly he has more resources than the average patient. He also doesn't discuss his depressions in much detail, so the picture seems somewhat one-sided. Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind (LJ 10/1/95) remains both the best-written and the most informative autobiography available on manic depression, while Martha Manning's Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface (HarperSanFrancisco: HarperCollins, 1996) is an informative, and even amusing, account of her electroshock treatments for depression. These titles are a better bet for small libraries; Behrman's book is recommended as an added title for larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/01.] Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Personal accounts of mental illness can provide insight into the mind's complexities not only for the public but for specialists seeking better treatments for their patients. Freud's theory of paranoia, for example, was richly informed by his reading of Dr. Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness. But in Behrman's account, it's unclear whether the author's descriptions of his psychological struggles are intended to clarify his experience of illness or to exploit the sensationalistic aspects of his manic depression (drug binges, sexual escapades and treatment with electroshock therapy) for fun and profit. The crux of Behrman's narrative involves his work as the publicist for pop artist Mark Kostabi. After helping Kostabi achieve fame, Behrman, along with an artist in Kostabi's studio, conspired to make and sell "fake" Kostabis an endeavor that culminated in the author's arrest and conviction for conspiracy to defraud. Although Behrman never discusses the relationship between his crime and his mental illness, the reader can deduce that the fraud was tied to his long history of deeds demonstrating tension between a desire to be loved and a desire to be guilty and punished (Behrman also worked as a prostitute and amassed significant debts). His prose suffers from an abundance of clinical editorializations and attention to the superficial, like brands of clothing and beer. This last offense gives the text its exhibitionistic, gossip-column style, which muffles the obviously tortuous aspects of the author's bouts with manic euphoria and paralytic depression. The genuine and compelling aspects of Behrman's disorder become subservient to the unfortunate but undeniable pleasures of schadenfreude. Agent, Suzanne Gluck. (On-sale Feb. 19) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Electroboy is as surreal as life can get, proving that truth is stranger than fiction. Andy Behrman's nightmare anecdotes are addicting."-Eric Bogosian, author of Mall"What a wild, mind-ripping, hellacious, and hysterical ride! Like some cranked-up, amoral Horatio Alger trapped in the dark fun house of his own brain, Andy Behrman is the stuff demented legends are made of. Electroboy is a brilliant, riveting instant classic of the American dream run amok."-Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight"Pull down the safety bar, because Electroboy, like the manic depression it limns, is a roller-coaster ride of white-knuckled highs and lows. Courageous and dazzling--a heartbreaking journey into the mind untamed."-Deborah Copaken Kogan, author of Shutterbabe"Without ever sounding self-serving or apologetic, Behrman tells the story of a man utterly atthe mercy of his impulses. It's sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, always fascinating."-John Taylor, author of Falling"This stark and unsettling memoir mimics the patterns of the manic mind. An astonishing story of uncontrolled desire told by one of the most endearing madmen you'll ever encounter."-Katie Roiphe, author of Still She Haunts Me"From the Hardcover edition."

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