madness: a brief history, by roy porter

When Van Gogh painted himself, who can say whether he was painting madness?—all that is clear is that he was painting misery.

I enjoyed the book; it’s an accessible whizz through perceptions and treatment of madness through the ages. It is not a serious exploration of mental illness, rather a sort of travel guide to trends.

His conclusion is jarring.

Yet public confidence in the psychiatric profession is low, as is evident from the ubiquitously distrustful images in the arts and reports in the popular press. Is Folly jingling its bells once again?

It’s also a glib one, based on trends, cycles, history – rather than current reality. It’s public confidence, which is a completely loose and lazy way to gauge anything at all. So I’d recommend you read the introduction and the whole book, but not bother with the conclusion. I’d like to see the same subject handled by someone with a far deeper understanding of it (no matter what the internet says on the subject of the author).

Still a lively and interesting read though.


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battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

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