ÒI glanced at myself in a mirror and, though unshaven, and my hair still morning-tousled, I appeared to be just the same. It was inside, inside my head, where all had become so wretchedly different. I had the night before been incontrovertibly a man of stable mood, of calm, of good cheer and unforced bonhomie. Now I had become changed, with dreadful suddenness, into another being altogether.Ó
Simon Winchester has never shied away from big, even enormous, topicsÑas evidenced by his bestselling biography of the Atlantic Ocean, his account of the Krakatoa volcanic eruption, and his wildly popular ÒThe Professor and the Madman,Ó about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. In his Byliner Original ÒThe Man with the Electrified Brain,Ó he takes on arguably his most daunting subject yet: his own flirtation with madness, and one of natureÕs greatest and most enduring mysteries, the human brain.
As a geology student in his second year at Oxford, Winchester was known as a young man of even temper and keen intellect, until one June morning when he woke to find himself Òchanged with dreadful suddenness into another being altogether,Ó his normal life Òslumped into chasmÓ and Òfolded in the dirt.Ó For a period of nine days, he lived in immobilizing fear. Everyday itemsÑfamiliar paintings, a pile of books, his own robe hanging from a hookÑbecame objects of horror; the world lost color, purpose, all sense and safety. When the episode finally passed, he returned to normal, presuming that what had happened to him was a fluke. It wasnÕt. The episode repeated itself at unpredictable and dangerous intervals for four yearsÑalways lasting for nine daysÑand very nearly caused the authorÕs death while he was on an expedition in the Arctic.
What was wrong with him? Where could he find help? Would he spend the rest of his life anticipating the return of these mental blackouts? With the urgency of a whodunit, Winchester describes the coming and going of these terrifying dissociative states and the chance encounter that led to the controversial treatment of electroconvulsive therapy, which may or may not have cured him once and for all.
Written by a consummate storyteller, ÒThe Man with the Electrified BrainÓ locates that finest of lines between sanity and insanity and is WinchesterÕs most riveting and deeply personal work yet.
PRAISE FOR ÒTHE MAN WITH THE ELECTRIFIED BRAINÓ
ÒA graceful, moving, and insightful account of a devastating condition which lies at the edge of our understanding of mental life.Ó ÑSteven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of ÒHow the Mind WorksÓ