Girl, Interrupted by Susanna KaysenGirl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted

bySusanna Kaysen

Paperback | April 19, 1994

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In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele—Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles—as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.
Susanna Kaysen has written the novels Asa, As I Knew Him and Far Afield and the memoirs Girl, Interrupted and The Camera My Mother Gave Me. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Title:Girl, InterruptedFormat:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 7.96 × 5.15 × 0.53 inPublished:April 19, 1994Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679746048

ISBN - 13:9780679746041


Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED IT I absolutely loved this book! I felt connected to the main character and many of the other characters in the book. Touching, emotional and funny at times. I recommend. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-08-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very boring I am afraid to say that I was infinitely bored while reading this novel. I couldn't connect with the narrator and felt completely disengaged the whole time. I had to force myself to finish it.
Date published: 2018-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent memoir Very validating and relatable to any person who has struggled with depression or mental illness. Easy read and hard to put down! One of my favourites for sure.
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it Very easy read, and pretty much dead on to the movie adaption.
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from loved it super easy read! finished in a day, very interesting and beautifully written.
Date published: 2018-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty good I liked how the narrative wasn't just linear, it went all over the place, which perhaps identifies with the themes of mental illness in the book #plumreview
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Caught in the middle. Mostly good. Thought provoking and eye opening towards the social stigma of mental illness. I would give this 4 stars, but I believe it glorifies suicide a little too much...therefore I gave it 3 stars instead. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-07-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautifully disturbing I loved this book. I loved the fact that it was a true story/true account of what it's like to live with mental illness. It really made me think about life and the way we view other people.
Date published: 2017-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good entertainment and great help I've had this book for more than 5 years. I have had years of mental illness and this book validated my experiences. It is also good entertainment for those without mental illnesses. It contains some elements of the absurd and tragic world of both the characters and mental health treatment.
Date published: 2017-06-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from too short interesting to see her view on things, would have liked more though, too short
Date published: 2017-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding Mental Illness In 1967 18-year-old Susana Kaysen was sent to Mc Lean mental institution, after spending no more then an hour in a doctors office. At admission she was diagnosed with a psychoneurotic depressive reaction, and personality pattern disturbance. She was a high school graduate, that for threw past year had been living with her boyfriend, but that was finished when she got into the hospital. In the hospital she made new friends, and saw and learned many different things. During her year in the mental institute she wrote a journal, which is actually the book. In her journal she tells what happens in the hospital, how they treat the patients, what they give to them, and what they do to them. She describes a lot about the way the hospital looks and where the usually like to "hang out." There are many different people she talks about in the book, some being the doctors and nurses in the hospital, and some of them being the girls in the hospital. She tells what they do, how they behave, what the look likes, and how she feels towards them. Lisa is always speaking her mind and listens to no one. Georgina, her room maid, is like her best friend. The story is a true story and the author is the one writing about what she had gone through in life. The book has a non-chronological order that makes it so great to read. Sometimes she has flash backs about high school, and how she used to behave before going into the hospital.
Date published: 2017-04-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not as good as expected I had seen the Girl, Interrupted movie before reading the book and while I thought the book was fine, I can't say I liked it more, or as much as, the movie. It was interesting to see what her life was like and to hear her tell the story, but to me it was so much more interesting in the movie. It is a super short book so I would still recommend it
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this book Whenever I feel down, I grab this book and start reading from random page. It helps me feel myself not alone. This book is beautifully written, not boring at all. It doesn't focus on one specific disorder, rather shows you a fine line between what's considered "normal" and "insanity" and how easy it is to cross it. Must read for anyone interested in psychology.
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Too real Great movie, great book #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrifyingly real This book depicts BPD and its various struggles with regulating emotions and trying to decipher "normal". It's beautiful and painful and mesmerizing. Way better than the movie.
Date published: 2017-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favourite book I loved the movie, so I thought I'd purchase the book. As expected, the book was even better! I love this story.
Date published: 2016-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Girl, Interrupted If you loved the movie or have an interest in biographies and psychology, I would highly recommend reading this book.
Date published: 2016-12-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A must read It's one of those book you MUST read as a right of passage in life. The world she writes is so complex and yet so true. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put down! Very interesting! Author has a unique way to keep things interesting and hard to put the book down. Definitely a must read!
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great book! The author's experience with her struggles as well as the detailed description of the other characters' struggles is thought provoking and relatable.
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Girl, Interrupted The authors experience is thought provoking and is a refreshing style for a memoir to be written.
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Girl, Interrupted I must admit that I watched the movie before I read the book. I was renting movies with a friend, and we just picked it up. It was really good, and I was excited when I found out it was based on a book. The book was very different from the movie (in a good way). The memoir looks at issues like the social stigma of being "mentally ill", along with the question of what is sane and what is insane? A very interesting read, and I would recommend both the movie and the book to anyone.
Date published: 2010-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! I was impressed with this book! It was really insightful and well written. I did watch the movie before reading this, but I appreciated the book much more. It went more in depth and the author had a quirkier way of presenting things. The length of this book could be seen as a positive or negative. It was really short- allowing you to consume it quickly, but it also left you wanting more.
Date published: 2009-07-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Different Kind of Memoir First off, I do have to comment about how I saw the movie of this book, before I read it. I do like the book better though. You can where Hollywood changed things just to "spice it up" in a way. Which I wish they wouldn't do with people's memoirs. It takes something away from the real story. Susanna's memoir is a bit different than any other I have read before. Usually, a memoir is more about the person's feelings during a certain part of their lives. Girl, Interrupted is more about people Susanna met while staying in a mental hospital. She does give the reader and idea of how she felt, but again, it was more about how she felt about the people around her. She also does give information on what she was diagnosed with. I did enjoy this book. I think it was really well written and put together well. However, I wish would have written more about her!
Date published: 2009-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stimulating I purchased this book upon hearing raving reviews from a distant friend of mine. At first i was skeptical but upon reading the first few chapters, i was entranced. The writing is amazingly done and the author has a profound talent of putting the reader into her shoes. At times i could completely see how one would be able to cross the line of sanity. This biography was an absolute pleasure to read, most definitely a page turner. I would recommend it to youth and adults alike.
Date published: 2008-11-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting tale, but doesn't keep too much interest After Susanna overdosed on drugs trying to kill herself, her parents send her to therapy. She is sent to a therapist on the other side of town and after only 30 minutes, the therapist decides that Susanna should be admitted to the famous psychiatric hospital McLean, where Ray Charles and John Nash have stayed. Just from this decision made in 30 minutes, Susanna loses a year and a half of her life staying in the hospital. They diagnose her with borderline personality syndrome. Susanna tells of the friends she makes in the hospital and their stories. Some are sad, some are funny. But really the point of this book is to determine what defines us as crazy? And can a single doctor, in 30 minutes, really determine properly if someone belongs in a hospital? Isn't everyone a little crazy? I found some of Susanna's commentary on her disease to be a bit tiresome, but the last chapter on it was very interesting. Having seen the movie, I was expecting something entirely different. The book is nothing like the movie at all - and in this case I found the movie to be more interesting, even if less realistic, than the book.
Date published: 2008-09-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting! Interesting. Different from what I was expecting. The book focused a lot more on her observations of the hospital and the people in it rather than her own problems. It was a lot less personal and psychological than anticipated. Regardless, I still enjoyed it a fair amount.
Date published: 2008-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Convincing I read this book for my English class and found it refreshingly odd. And, honestly? Odd is good once in a while. I found you could actually throw yourself into the story as well and believe that all of it was happening. The documents included between parts of the book bring in this reality, as well as her scattered recollections. One chapter she's moved a pace, the next she's remembering something that happened earlier and therefore your own sense of chronology is lost. That's pretty much awesome, if a bit confusing to the reader. But sometimes that's what you need to remind yourself that your own memories are just as scattered. And, well, you know *laughs* the entire world's insane anyway so why bother to understand what triggers someone to think you're insane? Oooh, tough one...
Date published: 2008-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Praying for the courage to press on that knife This novel is an incredible read, i had watched the movie and fell in love and the novel is even better. It is for anyone who has ever felt that their life has been interrupted by madness, of all kinds.
Date published: 2001-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Madness of the Mind As a sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder, I felt it necessary that I read the book. The intriguing characters are so well depicted that it's hard to believe they aren't ficticious. It was easy to understand to Susanna Kaysen, because her blunt honesty and character relate to my own personality as well. The author's writing techniques are great and she is a truly amazing woman.
Date published: 2000-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Girl, Interrupted An amazing truthful tale about a young girl growing up in the 60's! Most people have seen the movie, but few have read the book. START READING. Its a must read for everyone, girls, fathers, grandmothers. I should know I passed it on to my dad and grandmother to read. Its beautiful, clever and ultimately a great read. A real page turner, and a wonderful look on life. Susanna Kaysen, spent a year of her life in a mental institution, and Girl, Interrupted tells that tale in an utmost profound way.
Date published: 2000-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a true mesmerizing tale This book gave the reader the idea of what it's like to grow up in the 60's. Susanna Kaysen's life was not unlike a lot of our own. She had difficutly trusting people, and she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. Thus it lead her to the attempt of suicide. She was then brought to a psychiatric hospital with a diagonosis of 'borderline personality'. She then, after a while of getting to know her fellow friends, decided that this was where she belonged. Not because she was crazy, but becasue for once she felt as though someone actually care about her, and she had found someone that she cared about as well. This story was absolutly amazing the way Susanna made you feel like you were right there beside her as her life went on. Susanna Kaysen was indeed a girl, interrupted. This book was a true mesmorizing tale.
Date published: 2000-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Girl Interrupted Girl Interrupted gave everyone the view of what it's like, to grow up. Susanna Kaysen's world was not unlike some of our own. She had trouble figuring out what she wanted to do with her life, she had difficulties trusting people, and often kept her feeling inside. This drove her the the peak of attempting suicide. After she was sent to the hospital, she stayed there for the mere fact that she felt as though she belonged. It wasn't because she was crazy, and it wasn't because she needed to be there. It was because for once in her life, she felt as though someone actually cared about her, and she found people she cared about as well. The title of the book is absolutly perfect. Before even reading the book or the summery, you get the sense of what it is about. And Susanna Kaysen was, without a doubt, just a girl, interrupted.
Date published: 2000-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This book by Susanna Kaysen, on her struggles through life in the 60's was written amazingly. This book gives you the feeling that you are actually there going through all of this with her, it was written fabulously! I saw the movie before the book and I think the movie was portrayed very well! Amazing book and a good movie! This is definetely a good book to read, especially if you're at that time in your life where you don't know what you want to do or be. This is helpfull to let you know your not odd because you feel that way, it happens to most people, some more than others, but this is a good book to read for a bit of guidance.
Date published: 2000-10-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Poor I've read many books on the subject of psychology and i must say that for a true story this is one of most uneventful books I have ever read. When I read the back I expected that the author would explain how she managed to pull herself from her obsessions and maintain a regular life. The book barely covers anything on her present life and only concentrates on her years in a psychiatric hospital. I think for a lot of people who suffer from Mental Health problems it would have been much more helpful if she had gotten into more details on how exactly she managed to free herself from her obsessions and maintain a regular life.
Date published: 2000-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It's All In Our Heads I had heard about the novel before the movie had came out, but never got the chance to read it. As soon as I saw the movie I bought the book immediately and was pleasantly surprised that the book gave a more indepth view. It makes you feel like you're there on the couch next to her. The way she writes about the other characters (and herself) is captivating. Everything in it is real and believable. It makes you think, maybe " to stay sane you have to go crazy "!
Date published: 2000-06-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Movie was better You know how everyone always says the book is always better than the movie. Well they are dead wrong in this case. I read the book about a year before the movie came out, and because the book was so bad I had serious doubts about watching the movie when it came out. But I did, and am I glad I did. The story was awesome and the acting really wonderful. The only reason I would recommend this book to anyone would be so they could compare it to the movie.
Date published: 2000-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent :) I saw the movie a while ago, and thought that it was very, very good. I decided I would read the book to see how good it could be. It turned out to be an excellent book and everything in it is so true, I would recommend seeing the movie, AND reading the book.
Date published: 2000-05-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Choppy at Best I decided to purchase this book after seeing the movie (starring Wynona Ryder) And yes I do know that books and movies are very rarely ever the same, but just the same I was extremely dissapointed with this story, it was choppy, there were official looking documents stuck in in what appears to a random order, they really give no insite into the book and are pointless. If I had to do it over again I would NOT have purchased this book.
Date published: 2000-04-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from *yawn* Usually when I read a book it will make me think and thus extend the amount of time it takes me to read it. I read this book in 2 hours, the spine didn't even get broken! I did not enjoy it. The theme has been better tackled in other books like "Prozac Nation" (I can't remember the author's name...)
Date published: 2000-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Girl, Interrupted After one session with a bullying doctor, the author, aged eighteen, was admitted to McLean Psychiatric hospital outside Boston where she would spend the next eighteen months. Now, twenty-five years later, she has come to terms with the experience as detailed in this moving portrayal of not only her own struggles and experiences but also those of the other patients. Her account is brilliantly written giving us a clear insight into the "parallel universe" of the insane in the shifting setting of the late sixties.
Date published: 1999-10-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Madness May In Fact Be Sanity This novel was very interesting. Susanna Kaysen describes how she views the world. Her personality and attitude is one that many teenage girls can relate to, although they may not have experienced what Susanna has to the extreme which she has. This novel offers a clear insight as to what living with a mental disorder is like. I anxiously await the movie which will be coming out in the fall starring Winona Ryder as Kaysen who I believe will do a precise job in portraying the character. I recommend this book for all people who are interested in the learning and understanding how the "normal" and chemically altered human mind functions. Susanna explores the extent of which "normality" meets insanity and how easily the two can be misinterpreted.
Date published: 1999-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Girl, Interrupted I read this book about 5 years ago. Once I picked it up I just couldn't put it down until I was done, and yet I tried to postpone the end, because I didn't want it to finish. The way in which Kaysen writes makes you feel as if you are experiencing everything that she is experiencing and gives you a better understanding of the workings of her mind at this time. It was an exceptional book, and definitely one of my favourites. I highly recommend it. Oh, and definitely read it before the movie comes out (filming now), cause I for one know that I prefer to imagine the characters myself before I see what Hollywood does to them.
Date published: 1999-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Girl, Interrupted I read this book about 5 years ago. Once I picked it up I just couldn't put it down until I was done, and yet I tried to postpone the end, because I didn't want it to finish. The way in which Kaysen writes makes you feel as if you are experiencing everything that she is experiencing and gives you a better understanding of the workings of her mind at this time. It was an exceptional book, and definitely one of my favourites. I highly recommend.
Date published: 1999-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 100% delightful susanna kaysen did a highly impressible job of representing the psych ward for adolescent girls. i found it extremley difficult to not think about this book, until i was finished reading, and had recommend it to everyone that i know! it was funny, yet serious, and it was easy to understand, yet it was complicated in its own way. after even reading a few pages, i felt like i accually knew susanna, and was right there with her in the mental hospital! this book is awesome, and i am not hesitant in giving it awesome recommendations to anyone who is interested in this subject.
Date published: 1999-05-11

Read from the Book

Toward a Topography of the Parallel UniversePeople ask, How did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well. I can't answer the real question. All I can tell them is, It's easy.And it is easy to slip into a parallel universe. There are so many of them: worlds of the insane, the criminal, the cnp-pled, the dying, perhaps of the dead as well. These worlds exist alongside this world and resemble it, but are not in it.My roommate Georgina came in swiftly and totally, dur-ing her junior year at Vassar. She was in a theater watching a movie when a tidal wave of blackness broke over her head. The entire world was obliterated--for a few minutes. She knew she had gone crazy. She looked around the theater to see if it had happened to everyone, but all the other people were engrossed in the movie. She rushed out, because the darkness in the theater was too much when combined with the darkness in her head.And after that? I asked her.A lot of darkness, she said.But most people pass over incrementally, making a series of perforations in the membrane between here and there until an opening exists. And who can resist an opening?   In the parallel universe the laws of physics are suspended. What goes up does not necessarily come down1 a body at rest does not tend to stay at rest1 and not every action can be counted on to provoke an equal and opposite reaction. Time, too, is different. It may run in circles, flow backward, skip about from now to then. The very arrangement of molecules is fluid: Tables can be clocks; faces, flowers.These are facts you find out later, though.Another odd feature of the parallel universe is that al-though it is invisible from this side, once you are in it you can easily see the world you came from. Sometimes the world you came from looks huge and menacing, quivering like a vast pile of jelly1 at other times it is miniaturized and alluring, a-spin and shining in its orbit. Either way, it can't be discounted.Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco. The Taxi"You have a pimple," said the doctor. I'd hoped nobody would notice."You've been picking it," he went on.When I'd woken that morning--early, so as to get to this appointment--the pimple had reached the stage of hard expectancy in which it begs to be picked. It was yearning for release. Freeing it from its little white dome, pressing until the blood ran, I felt a sense of accomplishment: I'd done all that could be done for this pimple."You've been picking at yourself," the doctor said.I nodded. He was going to keep talking about it until I agreed with him, so I nodded."Have a boyfriend?" he asked.I nodded to this too.'Trouble with the boyfriend?" It wasn't a question, actu-ally1 he was already nodding for me. "Picking at yourself," he repeated. He popped out from behind his desk and lunged toward me. He was a taut fat man, tight-bellied and dark."You need a rest," he announced.I did need a rest, particularly since I'd gotten up so early that morning in order to see this doctor, who lived out in the suburbs. I'd changed trains twice. And I would have to retrace my steps to get to my job. Just thinking of it made me tired."Don't you think?" He was still standing in front of me. "Don't you think you need a rest?"Yes," I said.He strode off to the adjacent room, where I could hear him talking on the phone.I have thought often of the next ten minutes--my last ten minutes. I had the impulse, once, to get up and leave through the door I'd entered, to walk the several blocks to the trolley stop and wait for the train that would take me back to my troublesome boyfriend, my job at the kitchen store. But I was too tired.He strutted back into the room, busy, pleased with himself."I've got a bed for you," he said. "It'll be a rest. Just for a couple of weeks, okay?" He sounded conciliatory, or plead-ing, and I was afraid."I'll go Friday," I said. It was Tuesday, maybe by Friday I wouldn't want to go.He bore down on me with his belly. "No. You go now.I thought this was unreasonable. "I have a lunch date," I said."Forget it," he said. "You aren't going to lunch. You're going to the hospital." He looked triumphant.It was very quiet out in the suburbs before eight in the morning. And neither of us had anything more to say. I heard the taxi pulling up in the doctor's driveway.He took me by the elbow--pinched me between his large stout fingers--and steered me outside. Keeping hold of my arm, he opened the back door of the taxi and pushed me in. His big head was in the backseat with me for a moment. Then he slammed the door shut.The driver rolled his window down halfway."Where to?"Coatless in the chilly morning, planted on his sturdy legs in his driveway, the doctor lifted one arm to point at me.'Take her to McLean," he said, "and don't let her out till you get there."I let my head fall back against the seat and shut my eyes. I was glad to be riding in a taxi instead of having to wait for the train.EtiologyThis person is (pick one):1.        on a perilous journey from which we can learn much when he or she returns,2.        possessed by (pick one):a)        the gods,b)        God (that is, a prophet),c)        some bad spirits, demons, or devils,d)        the Devil13.        a witchVelocity vs. ViscosityInsanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast. I'm not talking about onset or duration. I mean the quality of the insanity, the day-to-day business of being nuts.There are a lot of names: depression, catatonia, mania, anxiety, agitation. They don't tell you much.The predominant quality of the slow form is viscosity.Experience is thick. Perceptions are thickened and dulled. Time is slow, dripping slowly through the clogged filter of thickened perception. The body temperature is low. The pulse is sluggish. The immune system is half-asleep. The organism is torpid and brackish. Even the reflexes are di-minished, as if the lower leg couldn't be bothered to jerk itself out of its stupor when the knee is tapped.Viscosity occurs on a cellular level. And so does velocity.In contrast to viscosity's cellular coma, velocity endows every platelet and muscle fiber with a mind of its own, a means of knowing and commenting on its own behavior. There is too much perception, and beyond the plethora of perceptions, a plethora of thoughts about the perceptions and about the fact of having perceptions. Digestion could kill you! What I mean is the unceasing awareness of the processes of digestion could exhaust you to death. And digestion is just an involuntary sideline to thinking, which is where the real trouble begins.Take a thought--anything1 it doesn't matter. I'm tired of sitting here in front of the nursing station: a perfectly rea-sonable thought. Here's what velocity does to it.First, break down the sentence: I'm tired--well, are you really tired, exactly? Is that like sleepy? You have to check all your body parts for sleepiness, and while you're doing that, there's a bombardment of images of sleepiness, along these lines: head falling onto pillow, head hitting pillow, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, Little Nemo rubbing sleep from his eyes, a sea monster. Uh-oh, a sea monster. If you're lucky, you can avoid the sea monster and stick with sleep-iness. Back to the pillow, memories of having mumps at age five, sensation of swollen cheeks on pillows and pain on salivation--stop. Go back to sleepiness.But the salivation notion is too alluring, and now there's an excursion into the mouth. You've been here before and it's bad. It's the tongue: Once you think of the tongue  it becomes an intrusion. Why is the tongue so large? Why is it scratchy on the sides? Is that a vitamin deficiency? Could you remove the tongue? Wouldn't your mouth be less both-ersome without it? There'd be more room in there. The tongue, now, every cell of the tongue, is enormous. It's a vast foreign object in your mouth.Trying to diminish the size of your tongue, you focus your attention on its components: tip, smooth, back, bumpy, sides, scratchy, as noted earlier (vitamin defi-ciency), roots--trouble. There are roots to the tongue. You've seen them, and if you put your finger in your mouth you can feel them, but you can't feel them with the tongue. It's a paradox.Paradox. The tortoise and the hare. Achilles and the what? The tortoise? The tendon? The tongue?Back to tongue. While you weren't thinking of it, it got a little smaller. But thinking of it makes it big again. Why is it scratchy on the sides? Is that a vitamin deficiency? You've thought these thoughts already, but now these thoughts have been stuck onto your tongue. They adhere to the existence of your tongue.All of that took less than a minute, and there's still the rest of the sentence to figure out. And all you wanted, really, was to decide whether or not to stand up.Viscosity and velocity are opposites, yet they can look the same. Viscosity causes the stillness of disinclination, velocity causes the stillness of fascination. An observer can't tell if a person is silent and still because inner life has stalled or because inner life is transfixingly busy.Something common to both is repetitive thought. Expe-riences seem prerecorded, stylized. Particular patterns of thought get attached to particular movements or activities, and before you know it, it's impossible to approach that movement or activity without dislodging an avalanche of prethought thoughts.A lethargic avalanche of synthetic thought can take days to fall. Part of the mute paralysis of viscosity comes from knowing every detail of what's ahead and having to wait for its arrival. Here comes the I'm-no-good thought. That takes care of today. All day the insistent dripping of I'm no good. The next thought, the next day, is I'm the Angel of Death. This thought has a glittering expanse of panic behind it, which is unreachable. Viscosity flattens the effervescence of panic.These thoughts have no meaning. They are idiot mantras that exist in a prearranged cycle: I'm no good, I'm the Angel of Death, I'm stupid, I can't do anything. Thinking the first thought triggers the whole circuit. It's like the flu: first a sore throat, then, inevitably, a stuffy nose and a cough.Once, these thoughts must have had a meaning. They must have meant what they said. But repetition has blunted them. They have become background music, a Muzak med-ley of self-hatred themes.Which is worse, overload or underload? Luckily, I never had to choose. One or the other would assert itself, rush or dribble through me, and pass on.Pass on to where? Back into  my cells to lurk like a virus waiting for the next opportunity? Out into the ether of the world to wait for the circumstances that would provoke its reappearance? Endogenous or exogenous, nature or nur-ture--it's the great mystery of mental illness.

Bookclub Guide

In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele—Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles—as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.1. The voice that narrates Girl, Interrupted may at first strike readers as cool, intellectual, rational, and controlled, qualities normally associated with sanity. It is a voice full of humor, characterized by an understatement that leaves much to the imagination. How, as we go deeper into the book, does the voice play against what it is describing--or heighten it? What is the overall effect of this voice?2. At what point, if any, does your perception of the narrator (whom for convenience we call "Susanna") change? Does Susanna's "unreliability" as the narrator suggest something about the nature of madness itself?3. What does the author accomplish by juxtaposing her actual medical records and case notes with the narrative? How do these documents contribute to your impression of Susanna's psychic state? How would this book be different without them?4. The narrator reveals little about her life before entering McLean Hospital, and the only biographical information we receive appears rather late in the book. Why do you think Kaysen has chosen to do this?5. The narrator describes her sojourn in McLean as a journey into a "parallel universe," one of many that "exist alongside this world and resemble it, but are not in it." What resemblances or analogies does Kaysen find between madness and everyday reality? How are the laws of these two universes different? How does one pass from one universe into another?6. Kaysen gives us two ways of experiencing her parallel universe. One way is to make us understand how madness feels; another is to show how madness is treated (or, more accurately, controlled). What effect does she create by giving us two opposing ways of understanding insanity?7. Most of the early sections of Girl, Interrupted are devoted to the narrator's observations of her fellow patients. To what extent, if any, do these women seem "crazy" to you? What difference do you see in the book's treatment of "Susanna," the character, and its treatment of the other patients?8. How does Kaysen describe McLean's "keepers"--its nurses, doctors, and therapists? How do you account for the difference between the hard-bitten full-time staff and the wide-eyed student nurses?9. In many ways McLean seems like an orderly place whose patients might easily be bored, slightly neurotic college students killing time in the dorm. Madness, real madness, creeps in insidiously, taking both reader and patients by surprise. At what points do we see madness intruding into McLean?10. At certain points the author suggests that there is something comforting, and even seductive, about insanity. What might make madness comforting to a young girl in the late 1960s--or, for that matter, to anyone at any time?11. A girl named Daisy kills herself in between hospital stays. Is this foreshadowed by what we already know about her? Why this patient, rather than another? To what extent is the behavior of any of these characters foreseeable?12. Susanna has no apparent reaction to Daisy's death, but after Torrey, another patient, is released into the custody of her neglectful parents, she has an episode of what her case report calls "depersonalization" [p.105] and mutilates her hands to see if "there are any bones in there" [p.103]. Why? What is she looking for underneath her skin? What is the effect of the graphic physicality of this chapter?13. The narrator sums up her release from McLean in the following way: "Luckily, I got a marriage proposal and they let me out. In 1968, everybody could understand a marriage proposal." What does this passage say about the choices available to female psychiatric patients--and, by extension, to any woman--at the time this book takes place?14. The narrator describes 1968 as a time when "people [outside the hospital] were doing the kinds of things we [the patients] had fantasies of doing" [p.92]; a patient's paranoid "delusions" might turn out to be accurate descriptions of the U.S. government's clandestine activities. What other connections does Kaysen draw between her characters' disturbance and the social paroxysms of their time? In what way is this book a document of the 1960s?15. How does the narrator feel when she meets Georgina and Lisa in the outside world, years after her release? What comparison can we make between the way Susanna sees their lives and the way she sees her own?16. How does the madness of the 1960s compare to the private and collective neuroses of Freud's Vienna--or to the spectacular symptoms (Multiple Personality Disorder, False Memory Syndrome) of the 1980s and '90s?17. One reviewer has noted that someone with Susanna's symptoms would today be given "60 days in-patient [treatment] and a psychotropic magic bullet. In 25 years, the cultural metaphor...has changed from incarceration to neglect." Is "neglect" preferable to "incarceration"? How do you think Kaysen might answer such a question?18. Another critic begins her review of Girl, Interrupted with the observation: "When women are angry at men, they call them heartless. When men are angry at women, they call them crazy" (Susan Cheever, "A Designated Crazy," The New York Times Book Review, June 20, 1993). In what ways is Girl, Interrupted a book about the sexual constructs of madness? What role does the narrator's gender appear to have played in her diagnosis and treatment? How do gender relations inside McLean mirror those in the outside world?19. What is the significance of the Vermeer painting "Girl Interrupted at Her Music" that appears in the last chapter? How did Susanna feel about the painting the first time she saw it? And how did she feel about it later, after her hospitalization? Why does the gaze of the music student in the painting so haunt her?

From Our Editors

At the age of 18, author Susanna Kaysen checked herself into a psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis of "borderline personality." After a botched suicide attempt, she felt she no longer had a grip on reality and needed to address the dark jumble in her head. More than 30 years later, she puts her experiences down on paper. Thus, Girl Interrupted recounts Kaysen’s road to recovery and her eventual release from McLean Psychiatric Hospital. With rich characters like Susan, who was thin and yellow and wrapped everything in toilet paper, and Daisy, who had an a passion for laxatives and chicken, this is one close up view of life in the mixed up world of psychiatric hospitals.

Editorial Reviews

"Poignant, honest and triumphantly funny. . . [a] compelling and heartbreaking story." --Susan Cheever, The New York Times Book Review

"Tough-minded . . . darkly comic . . . written with indelible clarity."--Newsweek

"[A]n account of a disturbed girl's unwilling passage into womanhood...and here is the girl, looking into our faces with urgent eyes."--Diane Middlebrook, Washington Post Book World