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Unholy Ghost

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The recipient of a Carter Center fellowship for mental health journalism, Casey has compiled a widely varied collection in which authors reckon with their personal experience of depression the "unholy ghost" to which poet Jane Kenyon famously referred. Well-known writers such as Donald Hall and Ann Beattie rub shoulders with talented newcomers like Maud Casey and Joshua Wolf Shenk in pieces that alternate between startling eloquence and the kind of vague, self-indulgent writing that turns some readers away from memoirs. Lee Stringer concludes her contribution with the revelation that "perhaps what we call depression isn't really a disorder at all, but an alarm of sorts, alerting us that something is undoubtedly wrong," while Lesley Dormen resorts to cliches ("My heart pumped dread"). Among the most engaging essays are Rose Styron's response to husband William Styron's Darkness Visible, in which she writes about comic moments that her husband, in the throes of depression, was too blue to appreciate. Responding to spouse Chase Twichell's essay, novelist Russell Banks writes that he has "learned to feel for my wife and to avoid feeling with her." As a whole, the collection is a valuable contribution to the field of depression studies, and will lend some insight and cheer to those struggling with this little-understood condition. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

This anthology will never earn a spot in library "Fast Fun Reads" displays, but given the number of people who suffer from depression and those who live with or love them, it probably deserves a place on most library shelves. Editor Casey has pulled together 22 contemporary pieces, some previously published, from different voices and perspectives, all trying to understand this devastating but elusive illness. The names you would expect are here: William Styron, Jane Kenyon, Susannah Kaysen, and Larry McMurtry, among others, with an introduction by Kay Redfield Jamison. Of particular interest are the companion pieces: Donald Hall's take on his wife, Jane Kenyon; Rose Styron on her husband; Russell Banks on his wife, Chase Twitchell; and editor Casey on her sister Maud. The dual perspective of experienced and witnessed depression is enlightening and at times frightening. Perhaps this volume should come with a warning label, for surely reading about depression can be depressing. The best of these pieces, though, like Kenyon's poems and William Styron's excerpt, overcome that pitfall with the power of their art. Recommended for public libraries. Mary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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