Twitch and Shout: A Touretter's Tale


Lowell Handler has Tourette's syndrome, a disorder characterized by exaggerated facial tics, sudden jerking movements of the body and limbs, and explosive public outbursts, usually in the form of expletives and racial epithets. Although he is a successful and acclaimed photojournalist, Handler has often seen himself as an outsider-a social outcast. With courage and candor, he recalls the difficulties he suffered growing up, the confusion he experienced when doctors misdiagnosed his bizarre behavior as a ...
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Lowell Handler has Tourette's syndrome, a disorder characterized by exaggerated facial tics, sudden jerking movements of the body and limbs, and explosive public outbursts, usually in the form of expletives and racial epithets. Although he is a successful and acclaimed photojournalist, Handler has often seen himself as an outsider-a social outcast. With courage and candor, he recalls the difficulties he suffered growing up, the confusion he experienced when doctors misdiagnosed his bizarre behavior as a psychological aberration, and finally how, restless and despairing, he embarked on a quest for answers.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 a variety of people who, like himself, don't conform to the standards of conventional society. With a keen eye for detail and an acute sense of humor, this memoir perfectly captures the unique and unforgettable life of a Touretter. Lowell Handler is a photojournalist whose work has been published in, among others, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and the Sunday Times Magazine (London). He served as associate producer and narrator of the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary Twitch and Shout, an exploration of Tourette's syndrome. He lives in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he is on the faculty of the Department of Performing and Visual Arts at Dutchess Community College.
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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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816644513
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,024,875
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii
Introduction xxiii
Chapter 1. Hitting the Road 1
Chapter 2. Talk Isn't Cheap 16
Chapter 3. Diagnosis 30
Chapter 4. Drugs and Orphan Drugs 48
Chapter 5. Life and Leukemia 64
Chapter 6. Jet Set Tourette 88
Chapter 7. Pot and Prozac Love 114
Chapter 8. Susanna and Marriage 128
Chapter 9. Twitch and Shout 142
Chapter 10. A Second Chance at Life 162
Chapter 11. Tourette Culture 176
Chapter 12. Crazy and Proud 188
Afterword 205
Resources 219
Acknowledgments 225
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2002

    A Moving Testimony

    Twitch and Shout by Lowell Handler is an autobiography of how he deals with Tourette Syndrome. Lowell grew up not knowing what was wrong with him and didn't discover until after his college life that he had the disease known today as Tourette Syndrome, or TS. This is a story to inspire people and to show others that even though life can be hard and confusing many times, there is still a way to figure it out and live a wonderful and happy life. At the time when Lowell was first attempting to discover what was wrong with him, he packed all of his personal belongings into his car and started to travel around the country. Through all of Lowell's travels he met many interesting people including others dealing with TS, to people with other disabilities such as not having any legs and getting around by means of a skateboard. Lowell met a woman whom he decided to marry, but then the relationship had to deal with many difficult issues. I recommend this book to anyone who has recently discovered that they have Tourette Syndrome and feel that they are the only one out there or are having trouble feeling like they can live their life in a meaningful way. Twitch and Shout is also a good book for anyone wanting a read that can help one to pay better attention to the little things in life and be more thankful for little details.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2002


    I am 22 years old and was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in 1992. This is the first account from another TS person I have read. I related very well and found this book to be heart-breaking and funny. Definitely recommended for anyone needing someone to relate to with TS, or anyone who loves another who has it. Buy it and pass it along!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2000

    a great autobiography

    I am a sophomore in college, and I am a Childhood Education/Special Education double major. I have to research Tourette Syndrome for my Human Exceptionalities course and present what information I can find each week. I read this book hoping I could find some insight about daily life from a person with Tourette Syndrome. I found this book very well written, and I would highly recommend it.

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