My Brother's Madness

Overview


My Brother's Madness is based on the author's relationship with his brother-who had a psychotic breakdown in his late forties-and explores the unfolding of two intertwined lives and the nature of delusion. Circumstances lead one brother from juvenile crime on the streets of Brooklyn to war-torn Vietnam, to a fast-track life as a Hollywood publicist and to owning and operating The Tin Palace, one of New York's most legendary jazz clubs, while his brother falls into, and fights ...
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Overview


My Brother's Madness is based on the author's relationship with his brother-who had a psychotic breakdown in his late forties-and explores the unfolding of two intertwined lives and the nature of delusion. Circumstances lead one brother from juvenile crime on the streets of Brooklyn to war-torn Vietnam, to a fast-track life as a Hollywood publicist and to owning and operating The Tin Palace, one of New York's most legendary jazz clubs, while his brother falls into, and fights his way back from, a delusional psychosis.

My Brother's Madness is part thriller, part exploration that not only describes the causes, character, and journey of mental illness, but also makes sense of it. It is ultimately a story of our own humanity, and answers the question, Am I my brother's keeper?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Few books nourish the psyche and stir the heart as much as My Brother's Madness."-David Unger, author of Life in the Damn Tropics
Publishers Weekly

In this gracefully written memoir, poet and novelist (and practicing psychotherapist) Pines narrates his and his younger brother's lives through the matrix of his brother's mental illness. A bright and sensitive child, Claude Pines was damaged by his parents' divorce, an unstable mother and relentless persecution at the hands of his father's monstrous second wife. The story alternates between scenes from the Pines brothers' childhood and Claude's descent into paranoid schizophrenia, an illness that began to assert itself when Claude was a promising medical student and which inexorably drove him into a marginal life. The author deftly handles the complex structure, and the writing compels with rich characters, black humor and clear evocations of locales ranging from an upper-class Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1950s to the drug-blighted Alphabet City of Manhattan's Lower East Side of the 1960s. Paul Pines resists making easy diagnoses and illustrates the complicated relationship between environmental and hereditary causes for a disease like Claude's. While the narrative loses some of its intensity over its last third as Claude slowly remakes himself as spokesperson for his fellow sufferers and Paul settles into a solid middle-class life, it remains engaging throughout. Never descending into easy sentimentality, Pines portrays the family tragedy of mental illness and the bare possibility of redemption we have in this life. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Poet, novelist, jazz promoter and psychotherapist Pines (Redemption, 1997, etc.) harrowingly depicts the incremental psychological breakdown of his younger brother. Born two years apart, the boys were viewed very differently by their mother, a lawyer who preferred to concentrate on her career. "One child was workable," their father Ben explained. "Claude was a surprise. I slipped that one in." The author remembers looking into his baby brother's crib and thinking, "I will never be lonely again." Neither boy complained about tagging along while Ben performed his rounds as chief surgeon at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital. After their parents' discord escalated into a nasty divorce and Ben married a much younger woman, the brothers cowered together in solidarity and disillusionment. Though circumstances often separated them-Paul went to boarding school and following a short stint in college hit the West Coast; Claude studied abroad and briefly attended medical school in the Bronx-the brothers' bond remained strong. But as the years progressed, they found themselves apart without communication for long periods of time. The memoir frenetically flashes between the brothers' early days and the mid-1980s, when middle-aged Paul became reluctant to leave the increasingly agitated Claude alone while he traveled to supervise a European film adaptation of his novel. After witnessing his brother's anxious, disheveled condition at his wedding in 1985, the author insisted that Claude be evaluated. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and the brothers' sad, deep, codependent relationship suffered even more in the heartbreaking years to come as Claude's psychosis was eventually accompanied by heartdisease, depression and other ills. The author's deep love for his sibling is evident on every page of this intense, painstaking chronicle. Frantic and meandering in its delivery, but nonetheless a searing portrait of a family hobbled by chronic mental illness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931896344
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Pages: 318
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Pines grew up in New York City and is the author of five books of poetry, including his most recent, Adrift on Blinding Light. His novel, The Tin Angel, was critically very well received. He currently lives with his wife Carol and daughter Charlotte in Glens Falls, New York, where he teaches American literature and creative writing at Adirondack Community College, practices psychotherapy at Glens Falls Hospital, and hosts the annual Lake George Jazz Weekend.

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