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Twitch and Shout: A Touretter's Tale

Twitch and Shout: A Touretter's Tale

by Lowell Handler, Elkhonon Goldberg (Foreword by), Neal R. Swerdlow (Afterword)

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Lowell Handler has Tourette's syndrome, a disorder characterized by exaggerated facial tics, sudden jerking movements, and public outbursts. Although he is an acclaimed photojournalist, Handler has often seen himself as a social outcast. In Twitch and Shout, Handler sets out, camera in hand, on a journey through less than savory parts of America. From a transvestite


Lowell Handler has Tourette's syndrome, a disorder characterized by exaggerated facial tics, sudden jerking movements, and public outbursts. Although he is an acclaimed photojournalist, Handler has often seen himself as a social outcast. In Twitch and Shout, Handler sets out, camera in hand, on a journey through less than savory parts of America. From a transvestite bar in Tampa to a flophouse in New Orleans to a community health center in New York, he meets people who, like himself, don't conform to conventional society. With a keen eye for detail and an acute sense of humor, this memoir perfectly captures the unforgettable life of a Touretter.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this straightforward chronicle of a life lived with Tourette's syndrome, first-time author Handler provides a memoir reminiscent of Temple Grandin's autistic-themed Thinking in Pictures. In addition to sharing a common link with Oliver Sacks as friend and counselor, Handler, like Grandin, asks for neither sympathy nor the label of victim. He would prefer that those he encounters in daily life look beyond the neurological disorder that erupts for him in involuntary twitches and grunts. In fact, Handler, by detailing his journey from isolation to treatment and understanding, shows how this rare disease can be a rich creative challenge. Although the author, a photojournalist, never spouts obscenities (uncontrolled profanity and other inappropriate speech afflict only about 15% of the 200,000 Americans who have Tourette's), he spent much of his life up to his early 20s twitching, shaking, jumping and otherwise alarming and upsetting himself, his family and the world outside. Handler offers wide coverage of his topic, from personal thoughts and anecdotes to discussion of pharmacological and political issues. In one memorable section, he takes a "road trip" with Sacks to visit a series of Tourette sufferers and, at one point, uses a bit of subterfuge to lose the good doctor so he can become better acquainted with a young lady. Among the most interesting passages are those profiles of Touretters in which we meet a surgeon, a professional basketball player and a symphony conductor. Equally fascinating are Handler's speculations on whether such historical notables as Samuel Johnson and Mozart suffered from Tourette's. For any interested in this curious disorder, this book is a must read. Photos. (May)
Library Journal
Characterized by involuntary vocalizations and movements, Tourette's Syndrome is a neurological disorder affecting between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans whose diagnosis can be missed if symptoms are interpreted as behavioral rather than medical in origin. The author, a photojournalist, describes his long and sometimes painful odyssey to discover the cause of the tics and jerks that plagued his childhood and adolescence. Along the way we meet family members, physicians such as neurologist Oliver Sacks, and fellow Touretters and learn about the drugs that help control some symptomsthough not without side effects of their own. The result is an "outsider's" life told from the inside, a personal memoir that profiles other Touretters from all walks of life. Handler is occasionally moving, but the tone is mostly matter-of-facthe's clearly come to terms with his conditionand this book will be most appreciated by fellow Touretters and their friends and family. A brief resources section is included. Recommended for consumer health collections. [Gwyn Hyman Rubio's Icy Sparks, a novel whose young heroine suffers from Tourette's Syndrome, will be published by Viking this August.Ed.]Anne C. Tomlin, Auburn Memorial Hosp. Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
Episodic, revealing memoirs of a young man with Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological disorder whose symptoms include uncontrollable tics and touching and odd vocalizations. Handler, a photojournalist and faculty member of the New School for Social Research, was born with the disorder but not diagnosed until he was a senior at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Relieved to know that his condition had a name and that he wasnþt alone, Handler eventually became active in the Touretteþs Syndrome Association, and it was through this organization that he found the subjects for a series of portraits of Touretters that Life magazine assigned him to produce. Although that series didnþt run in Life, the experience led him to contact neurologist Oliver Sacks to suggest a collaboration, and their joint photo essay on a Touretteþs family was published worldwide. In 1989, he began a five-year collaboration with film producer Laurel Chiten on a documentary about Tourette's Syndrome, also titled 'Twitch & Shout.'

Thus the disorder has not only shaped Handler's life, but has been the focus of most of his life's work. His account of his travels around the country with Sacks as they sought out Touretters is a warts-and-all picture of the noted author, whose peculiar sleeping habits and other idiosyncracies Handler is not averse to recording. He is even more forthright about his own problems, however, describing his search for relief through various drugs (Haldol, pimozide, and for a long time a combination of Prozac and marijuana), his difficult relationship with his brother, the end of his unhappy marriage, in which his pot-smoking lifestyle played no small part, andhis brief affair with an especially troubled young woman. With its disjointed structure and photographs that seem to have been flipped carelessly, even haphazardly, onto the page, this memoir has all the energy and twitchiness of Touretteþs Syndrome, which is probably exactly what Handler intended.

Product Details

University of Minnesota Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

What People are Saying About This

Oliver Sacks
"Tourette's syndrome is an extraordinary condition, which may drive the mind and body to movements, thoughts, and feelings which may seem incomprehensible and alien even to those who have it. It has, as is often remarked, 'a mind of its own.' Twitch and Shout gives us a most vivid description of what it is like to spend one's life with such an alter ego. Lowell Handler writes with enormous honesty, humor, and gusto."
Margot Mifflin
It's a mind-bending account of a mind-boggling affliction. Entertainment Weekly
Rob Morrow
"The conversion of suffering is a key to life. For anyone who has had to fight an uncontrollable urge, this book will be insightful, humorous, and inspiring." -- Author and director
Peter D. Kramer
"Handler gives a clear account of Tourette's all right, but that is the least of what is impressive about Twitch and Shout. The book is herky-jerky like the illness, zippy and zestful and interspersed with moments of despair. Handler is a voyeur and an experienced junkie and an optimist. He is good company." -- Author of Listenign to Prozac and Should You Leave?

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