Praise for Let Me Not Be Mad
“Magnificently unsettling…[Benjamin] reels off superbly sympathetic statements with the kind of professional tenderness worthy of Oliver Sacks…This book about madness becomes itself the chronicle of a shattering breakdown…[the book’s] conclusion feels like a benediction.”—The New York Times
“Benjamin travels terrain between reality and psychosis in this complex memoir of mental illness and treatment, and readers willing to burrow into troubled minds will be fascinated.”—Booklist
"A well-conceived and written exploration of the traps hidden in the art of mental healing.”—Kirkus
“Exhilarating... dazzling... a miraculous feat” — The Guardian
“A mental-health memoir like no other… a genre-defying wake-up call of a book” —The Observer
"A perfectly extraordinary – not to mention extraordinarily perfect – drama that centres about the fraught, ferocious, hilarious, dangerous and explosive relationships that develop between therapist and patient. Like a tense Hitchcockian psychodrama, the ticking bomb of the psychiatrist's own sanity makes itself heard on every page. In unravelling the minds of others, the mind of the analyst can often unravel too. I have rarely read a more haunting, enthralling and perfectly written account of a descent into madness. An important, profound and fascinating book."
—Stephen Fry, actor
“Imagine a gonzo Oliver Sacks communing with Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose, R.D. Laing and the spirit of Kafka’s 'A Country Doctor,' and you still won’t quite have the flavour of this wild and strikingly original book.”
—William Fiennes, bestselling author of The Music Room and The Snow Geese
"A truly astonishing journey into and out of the mind. Not content to pin you down with the intense intimacy of his storytelling Benjamin dramatizes some of the most profound and intractable issues in neuroscience and psychiatry. I’ve never read anything like it.”
—Mark Lythgoe, neurophysiologist, professor of biomedical imaging at University College London
“A treasure of a book. Intricately woven and deeply intimate, it reveals things that astonish, surprise and improve us.”
—James Rhodes, pianist and bestselling author of Fire on All Sides
"'We cannot tell our stories and be present at the same time,' says A. K. Benjamin. Who then, brilliantly, alarmingly, with cunning and self-lacerating honesty, proceeds to dismantle his own proposition. Let Me Not Be Mad offers a spin of shifting, swerving, measured or suicidal reports, confessions and confabulations. The doctor is sick, but his intelligence, his scope of reference, his damaged sagacity could save us all. A lung-shredding march against darkness."
—Iain Sinclair, writer and filmmaker
“Let Me Not be Mad is stunning: clever, troubling, restless, honest, dishonest; one of the best portraits of madness and clinical practice I’ve read. It’s so rare for clinicians to be able to understand encounters with their patients with this kind of depth, richness and psychoanalytic acuity - let alone the glare he turns on himself. I read it in two sittings. Extraordinary.”
—Olivia Laing, author of The Lonely City
"Now we know what A. K. Benjamin has been up to for those many years away. And to think we all believed that he had been lost to the fruitcakes and the monkhood of the Big Sur. Profoundly disturbing. Profoundly moving. Profoundly profound."
—Andrew Kötting, writer and filmmaker
“In the past few years there have been a number of books of case histories written by practising psychoanalysts and neurologists…But Let Me Not Be Mad is a different sort of beast, and much more tricky. In the other books, the reader trusts the narrator to deliver a reliable portrait of each case history of madness or neurosis. But this one offers no such stability, as the narrator himself is unhinged – so much so that his clients may not even exist other than as projections of his own crazed imagination. This makes the book a dizzying whirlpool of doubt, delusion and misinformation. This effect is intentional, and many have found it compelling.” —Daily Mail
“At first I thought this an exceptionally well written book in the genre of medical story telling. The more I read the more I realised it’s an exceptional book in a genre all of its own. Insightful, wonderfully well observed and beautifully written” —Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan, author of Is It All in Your Head?
"Can you have a breakdown in a breakdown?" Clinical neuropsychologist Benjamin delivers tales of disturbed minds—not least of them his own.
Listen, assess, prescribe: It's a process that every psychiatrist follows, sometimes countless times in the course of a working year. But what is that doctor hearing? "Studies have shown that your generation, our generation, lies on average two or three times every ten minutes, men to make themselves look better, women to feel good," writes the author. So how much of the assessment is built on untruths, and how much on observable reality? As Benjamin notes, an average one may contain 100 mistruths, depending on what and how much the patient chooses to reveal. Some of the cases that present themselves to the author are sufferers from dementia, which itself can hide behind misrepresentations, as he recounts when trying to attend to his own mother, "a mother and son mirroring each other's confusion." Others are grandiose, delusional, even dangerous. As Benjamin observes, attempts to help are often of the blind-men-and-elephant variety, with different specialists often coming to very different conclusions about a single patient—the oncologist looking for the brain tumor, the psychologist looking for the moment of fracture in a person's history, and so forth. Given all this, the author ironically proposes an entry in the diagnostician's manual for a syndrome named after himself, one that describes "an obsession with the singularity of your diagnosis while fearing that any specific diagnosis is too narrow." So it's small wonder that so many mental health workers suffer from plaguing doubts and maladies of their own, alleviated, perhaps, by the thought that "however sick, however mad, there would always be someone worse in need of looking after."
A well-conceived and -written exploration of the traps hidden in the art of mental healing.
Clinical neuropsychologist Benjamin explores the relationship between doctor and patient, writing about the various patients he met during the ten years he worked in a London hospital. The author begins with a series of case studies describing the neurological challenges his patients face, such as traumatic brain injury, severe epilepsy, and a host of other neurodegenerative diseases. This literary format, made familiar by Oliver Sacks, soon diverges as Benjamin incorporates more of his own trials and tribulations. With each chapter readers are left wondering who is more in need of diagnosis and medical support—the person on the examining table or the professional asking the questions—as Benjamin blurs the line (a thin and almost nonexistent boundary in his case) between doctor and patient. Benjamin's narrative is erudite, at times lofty, and almost always on the edge of painful as he illuminates his fraught world. VERDICT This unique memoir will likely appeal to fans of personal medical writing and narratives.—Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's Sch., Brooklyn