Thursday, October 16, 2008

BP (Bipolar) Magazine review of The Lily Pond


A short review has appeared in the important mental health magazine BP (Bipolar) Magazine, raving about Mike Barnes's The Lily Pond. As I have said elsewhere, repeatedly (sorry about that), I think this is one of the most important memoirs of its kind, better than Jamison, Styron, Solomon, Alvarez: most who have picked it up seem to agree. So, please, do so.

Here's the review:

The Lily Pond: A Memoir of Madness, Memory, Myth and Metamorphosis
By Mike Barnes (Biblioasis, 2008)

Reviewed by Rachel Bravmann

In 2008, memoirs about bipolar disorder are flying off the shelves. Barnes’ personal chronicle rises to the top due not only to content but to his sheer mastery of language.

Exploring 30 years of living with bipolar disorder from a variety of perspectives, including in-patient hospitalization, he weaves a complex narrative of memory and pondering. From descriptions of depression to the natural world and even mythology, Barnes commands a natural affinity for exposition and depiction. Take notice of his relationship to a nursery web spider, a wood frog, his family, and his partner, Heather, who also lives with mental illness. These bonds are beautifully illustrated, venerated, and illuminated.

In describing Heather, Barnes may also be describing the nature of bipolar disorder: “Mental Illness–meaning here, the diagnosis and treatment of it especially–is working against her confidence, implanting radical doubts in her about her basic capability.” In doing so he creates an essential element of trust with readers. Full of fraught childhood reminisces, explanations of the excruciating and familiar ebb and flow of despair, and complex existential tracts, The Lily Pond shines.

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