The Hypochondriacs: Nine Tormented Lives MOBI ô The

The Hypochondriacs: Nine Tormented Lives Charlotte Bront found in her illnesses, real and imagined, an escape from familial and social duties, and the perfect conditions for writing The German jurist Daniel Paul Schreber believed his body was being colonized and transformed at the hands of God and doctors alike Andy Warhol was terrified by disease and by the idea of disease Glenn Gould claimed a friendly pat on his shoulder had destroyed his ability to play piano And we all know someone who has trawled the Internet in solitude, seeking to pinpoint the source of his or her fantastical symptoms The Hypochondriacs is a book about fear and hope, illness and imagination, despair and creativity It explores, in the stories of nine individuals, the relationship between mind and body as it is mediated by the experience, or simply the terror, of being ill And, in an intimate investigation of those lives, it shows how the mind can make a prison of the body by distorting our sense of ourselves as physical beings Through witty, entertaining, and often moving examinations of the lives of these eminent hypochondriacs James Boswell, Charlotte Bront , Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Alice James, Daniel Paul Schreber, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould, and Andy Warhol Brian Dillon brilliantly unravels the tortuous connections between real and imagined illness, irrational fear and rational concern, the mind s aches and the body s ideas. Tormented Hope, which was on the shortlist for the 2009 Wellcome Trust Book Prize, is a history of hypochondria, as told through the lives of nine noted people who were diagnosed with the disorder in their lifetimes James Boswell, Charlotte Bront , Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Alice James, Daniel Paul Schreber, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol The author uses written personal accounts of these individuals and biographies about them, along with past and current medical literature on hypochondria and the effect of the mind on illness, to elucidate the disease process in the person, and how their illnesses were perceived by themselves and those close to them The nine people were chosen by the author because they had written extensively about their illnesses.Although this concept of this book was interesting to me, I did not enjoy it, and stopped reading it about halfway through I found the discussions tedious and drawn out, and the lives of the people as portrayed by Dillon had little or no interest to me I think that this book would be much interesting to readers who have a strong interest in these individuals, rather than someone looking for a medical history of hypochondria. I am surprised that this book has such a relatively low rating Each study is deftly written, and I found the chapters on Florence Nightingale, Alice James and Glenn Gould particularly elegant I respectfully suggest that any reader who wonders why some of these individuals were included in this book would do well to read it again and reflect on the changing conceptions of hypochondria. This book is a brief biography of 9 artists, most of them writers, and how they survived and coped with their supposed hypochondria It is not a book about hypochondria, but of the lives of the 9 artists chosen by the author to illustrate the degree of their hypochondria as evident in their memoirs, letters, diaries, essays, novels, autobiographies, and others writings testimonies about them The author s purpose in writing the book was to illustrate the history of hypochondria , though after reading the book I would expand that to mean the EVOLUTION of hypochondria The author then attempts to write the biography of a body, where biography is to be understood in its etymological sense that is, a literal writing of life itself bios in the original Greek Because it is a biography and not a medical journal or book, the artists real illnesses as defined in our century might actually be far removed from hypochondria This becomes obvious to anyone reading the chapter on James Boswell they would immediately realize that today his so called hypochondriac symptoms would be classified as depression Charles Darwin had migraines with IBS and probable amoebiasis Charlotte Bronte, the misunderstood hypochondriac, is actually a classic introvert based on the author s descriptions of her life Florence Nightingale has PTSD which the author also mentions with possible manic depressive disorder and polymyalgia rheumatica Alice James had what we would call now a nervous breakdown that never got cured, with classic racing thoughts as the hallmark of her disease Daniel Schreber, aware of his mental illness probably had schizoaffective disorder due to inner conflict with his homosexuality Marcel Proust is the asthmatic who became agoraphobic as a result of it because there was no preventive medication for asthma during his time Glenn Gould, the Monk like OCD pianist with multiple phobias but who, under today s medical definition of hypochondria, is probably the only true hypochondriac in the whole book Andy Warhol, whose illnesses are real and not imagined, the most serious being chorea, and whose only claim to hypochondria is his fear of contracting AIDS, which was the fear of almost everyone in the arts and gay community during the early 80s So if you re looking to read this book to find out about hyponchondria, you will be disappointed, because it is a biography of 9 people s illnesses, real or imagined, and not hypochondria per se. You know how sometimes there is a book that does a great job of telling a story, in an easy to follow manner This is not that book.Even though the content was really interesting, his way of telling it was so uncomfortable that I found myself dreading to pick it up to read it I persevered for two chapters but still couldn t find any pleasure in reading it And that s coming from a psychologist who probably has a medical chart out there somewhere with a big HYPOCHONDRIAC label stuck on it. The author s ignorance of medicine and psychiatry makes his heavy handed attempts to force his subjects into the diagnosis hypochondriac annoying and unconvincing and turns into a show case for his eclectic study of the use of the term through history without teaching us anything about the effect of imaginary illness or the people he victimizes.Many of his hypochondriacs like Boswell are going through normal periods of depression Others are psychotic or like Glen Gould sound autistic Quite a few of them died young of their maladies in a day when diagnosis was crude enough that it is very likely their feelings of having something seriously wrong were true Charlotte Bronte, for example.There s too much junk psychology including a lot of outmoded simplistic Freudian thinking My impression is that the author was not equipped to write the book he sold, probably on a proposal, but wrote it anyway.The subject a fascinating one still awaits a study by someone better able to write it. This is a very insightful account of 9 hypochondriac lives Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale and Andy Warhol featuring among them I found Andy Warhol s story particularly sad as was the afterword on Michael Jackson, although the author manages to write about these people in an incredibly respectful way. Interesting, very interesting I thought every story would read like a textbook I was pleased to discover the author managed to make it story like. Currently reading have finished half of the chapters One British critic described it as a book one reads slowly to fully consider Dillon s writing and to postpone finishing the book There is no higher compliment I fully agree Each sentence is crafted masterfully and depicts the affect of hypochondria on the lives and creativity of the subjects I ve been fascinated with medical history for than 20 years, and this book is engaging beyond belief, especially if the reader is particularly interested in one of the hypochondriacs Charlotte Bronte, Andy Warhol, Florence Nightingale, Glenn Gould, etc. Not too bad, interesting profiles Unfortunately the people were really sick characters, if not always physically sick.

About the Author: Brian Dillon

BRIAN DILLON was born in Dublin in 1969 His books include Objects in This Mirror Essays Sternberg Press, 2014 , Sanctuary Sternberg Press, 2011 , Ruins MIT Press Whitechapel Gallery, 2011 , Tormented Hope Nine Hypochondriac Lives Penguin, 2009 and In the Dark Room Penguin 2005.His writing appears regularly in the Guardian, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, Artfor

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