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The Eden Express describes from the inside Mark Vonnegut's experience in the late '60s and early '70s--a recent college grad; in love; living communally on a farm, with a famous and doting father, cherished dog, and prized jalopy--and then the nervous breakdowns in all their slow-motion intimacy, the taste of mortality and opportunity for humor they provided, and the grim The Eden Express describes from the inside Mark Vonnegut's experience in the late '60s and early '70s--a recent college grad; in love; living communally on a farm, with a famous and doting father, cherished dog, and prized jalopy--and then the nervous breakdowns in all their slow-motion intimacy, the taste of mortality and opportunity for humor they provided, and the grim despair they afforded as well. That he emerged to write this funny and true book and then moved on to find the meaningful life that for a while had seemed beyond reach is what ultimately happens in The Eden Express. But the real story here is that throughout his harrowing experience his sense of humor let him see the humanity of what he was going through, and his gift of language let him describe it in such a moving way that others could begin to imagine both its utter ordinariness as well as the madness we all share.


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The Eden Express describes from the inside Mark Vonnegut's experience in the late '60s and early '70s--a recent college grad; in love; living communally on a farm, with a famous and doting father, cherished dog, and prized jalopy--and then the nervous breakdowns in all their slow-motion intimacy, the taste of mortality and opportunity for humor they provided, and the grim The Eden Express describes from the inside Mark Vonnegut's experience in the late '60s and early '70s--a recent college grad; in love; living communally on a farm, with a famous and doting father, cherished dog, and prized jalopy--and then the nervous breakdowns in all their slow-motion intimacy, the taste of mortality and opportunity for humor they provided, and the grim despair they afforded as well. That he emerged to write this funny and true book and then moved on to find the meaningful life that for a while had seemed beyond reach is what ultimately happens in The Eden Express. But the real story here is that throughout his harrowing experience his sense of humor let him see the humanity of what he was going through, and his gift of language let him describe it in such a moving way that others could begin to imagine both its utter ordinariness as well as the madness we all share.

30 review for The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    The Eden Express was written by Kurt Vonnegut's son Mark, and is a memoir of his struggles with schizophrenia, or his struggles with, what he once called, "apocalypse, shit storms, and eternal truths." The first 70 pages of this 214 page book were pretty slow, and barely interesting. They mainly describe Mark's post graduate life, his relationship with his girlfriend, his deep involvement with the hippie community, and his creating a commune in British Columbia. The writing during this first thir The Eden Express was written by Kurt Vonnegut's son Mark, and is a memoir of his struggles with schizophrenia, or his struggles with, what he once called, "apocalypse, shit storms, and eternal truths." The first 70 pages of this 214 page book were pretty slow, and barely interesting. They mainly describe Mark's post graduate life, his relationship with his girlfriend, his deep involvement with the hippie community, and his creating a commune in British Columbia. The writing during this first third is mediocre, and it drags. Then, shortly after getting settled into his dream and utopia on the commune MARK GOES CRAZY. And boy does it take off. Finally, this is why I chose to read this book. This is where it gets interesting; this is where it becomes a head trip; this is where Mark's writing comes to life with a stream of consciousness entering us into Mark's paradigm bending, soul inflating, soul shattering, runaway ride into Hells Cosmos. Here, Mark doesn't just give us a glimpse, but a full-on immersion into his head. His head, his head, his crazy head; his brilliant head, his wild head. It's beyond conceivability, but he makes you understand. The heart pounding, the hypersensitivity, delusions, world ending panic, extreme paranoia, the suicide attempts, talking to the demon, his girlfriend is dead, his father is dead, everyone-is-dead-including-Mark, the conspiracies, naked runs of catch-me-if-you-can, lost sense of time, the transcendence and going beyond, breaking windows, blackouts, good versus evil, life or death for himself, life or death for the entire species -- all of it up to him, all of it in his head -- all of it articulated in an enlightening manner. While Mark described his experience and what was going on in his head remarkably well, the most impressive and important trait of this memoir is its honesty. Mark gives a full-on, straight-up account of what happened, neither downplaying nor glorifying this fascinating but frightening disease. For Mark the early stages were mostly positive: transcendent feelings of enlightenment, an overwhelming sense of peace, an increased ability to inspire. He was Mark the "real life prophet guru." He was Mark "falling in love with everyone," and Mark in a "warm comfy womb with all his friends." "I had attained enlightenment that made me above eating and sleeping" The transition: "And then it dawned on me who I was. I was Curiosity. What a terrible thing to be; Curiosty at the dawn of time. I couldn't help myself, I knew I was going to fuck everything up." "All the lonely, sick, unhappy people. The sky was crying. Everyone was dragging, stumbling through life. A fat girl went into the drugstore, a limping woman came out. Cars were choking along. The wind and rain slashed through everything, biting and cold, and here I was, safe inside the bus. I started crying." To the horrific. Here, shortly after Mark's second schizophrenic onslaught, speaking of an individual he had not known long, who is rather in awe of him -- whom Mark refers to as "Fan", or, "Fan David" because he's a huge fan of Mark's father -- we see just how brutally honest Mark is about what happened to him. "Fan David's was the most persistent 'Far out, that's cool,' etc., I have ever run into. I remember how I finally shook him up. I went into the room where he was sleeping. He started up, per usual, being enthusiastic about how far out I was. His dog was lying next to his bed. I reached over and jacked his dog off. Fan got very upset. I guess everyone has a limit." My reaction, looking back on the book, I think, is probably much like Mark's reaction when looking back on schizophrenia itself. Its images, perceptions, and profundities feel vague and just out of grasp. There was a wild wisdom that went along with him going crazy; a wisdom so far outside the box it's only partially fathomable by someone like me, who hasn't experienced it. The same goes for the terrifying, suicidal, out of control "shit storms" that Mark experienced. And so we are lucky that someone as talented as Mark was able to go back and retell -- relive, really -- his experience, giving us an idea of the boundaries that our minds are capable of, and where they can take us. But by the end, Mark is clear: "I would much prefer death over life with my head in such desperately bad shape." And yet.. "Even in the beginning there was some worry about me and even in the end there was some feeling that I was on to something very important and real."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fergus

    There’s no recipe for a happy life. It’s just that in our one-inch-above-the-ground floating world - punchdrunk on whatever ego-trip we happen to find ourselves in - we think there is. It’s a kind of Eden express. And if we get really obstinate about how bulletproof our euphoria has now suddenly made us, we’re on Mark Vonnegut’s type of Eden express, mental illness. I caught that train too. Where did we go wrong? It’s like this: Brute reality is unsustainable for long periods of time. Nevertheless There’s no recipe for a happy life. It’s just that in our one-inch-above-the-ground floating world - punchdrunk on whatever ego-trip we happen to find ourselves in - we think there is. It’s a kind of Eden express. And if we get really obstinate about how bulletproof our euphoria has now suddenly made us, we’re on Mark Vonnegut’s type of Eden express, mental illness. I caught that train too. Where did we go wrong? It’s like this: Brute reality is unsustainable for long periods of time. Nevertheless (and guess what?) our culture tells us the instant nirvana of whatever game or product we’ve bought into is ALWAYS readily available for our instant gratification. We’ll be anesthetized Instantly. We CAN, in an ideal world so the ads say, be high 24/7! OK - am I alone in wanting to be pleasantly anesthetized by whatever video channel I’m watching for an indefinite stretch of time? Am I alone in finding myself, whenever it’s time for lights out, clutching my remote tightly just so I can watch just another minute of brainless pablum? “Humankind cannot bear much reality.” Now, go back to that brute naked reality I mentioned - the opposite of video la-la land... What if you were Led (let’s say, by a Nietzschean disregard for basic self-care) to endure that Gorgon’s head of brute reality for far too long? Mark did that, and so did I. Well, in this book we’re told that suddenly - I’m not kidding - this nirvana of self-projected instant gratification will now be nonstop. It’s now the runaway Eden express. You know the one with a loose caboose? So mental illness is one way of hitting rock bottom. So’s addiction or any of a host of crutches when the fit hits the shan. But we CAN wake up, as Mark’s famous father Kurt made HIM wake up - and a program like the twelve steps can make the addict, just as a strict regimen can make a recovered former zombie like me and Mark, wake up one bright blue morning with a realization. That realization may be like the one that hit me today: “Look at THIS! “I’m now IN CHARGE of my life. “AND... I’m really LIVING it for a change.” So go ahead - turn OFF that crazy gizmo you’re watching... And Wake Up to Your Life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laala Kashef Alghata

    “I figured I had taken patience about as far as it could go and it didn’t seem to be working. Nothing good seemed to come out of it. It seemed the more patient I was, the more I had to be patient with.” — Mark Vonnegut, The Eden Express I find that it’s hard to review books when you love them completely and want to buy copies for everyone you know. I end up just wanting to say read it read it read it — which probably isn’t very useful in a review. Mark Vonnegut is Kurt Vonnegut’s son, but as that “I figured I had taken patience about as far as it could go and it didn’t seem to be working. Nothing good seemed to come out of it. It seemed the more patient I was, the more I had to be patient with.” — Mark Vonnegut, The Eden Express I find that it’s hard to review books when you love them completely and want to buy copies for everyone you know. I end up just wanting to say read it read it read it — which probably isn’t very useful in a review. Mark Vonnegut is Kurt Vonnegut’s son, but as that is irrelevant to his book, I will only mention it to say: Mark’s style is nothing like his father’s. It’s actually quite enthralling — it feels like he was influenced by the Beat movement in a good way, a great way. It has the immediacy of On The Road and scrutiny and poetry of Ginsberg’s Howl. He doesn’t really write like either of them, but the sense of urgency, of bewilderment and searching, links them in my mind. “We only had vague ideas about the shape of these changes or when they would happen, but we looked forward to them eagerly. Since they would result from being free of the cities, of capitalism, racism, industrialism, they had to be for the better.” The book is now thirty-five years old, but it’s as relevant as ever. As someone who is only a little younger than Vonnegut when the book begins, I can understand that deep need to find somewhere to belong untouched by your parents, or society — to find somewhere new, and claim it for your own. “The truth is we didn’t really know what we wanted.” But of course, for every one person who knows exactly what they want, there’s probably ten who are looking around, lost. I know where I want to end up, in an elastic sense, but I don’t want the intervening years to be a mere stepping stone. As we struggle, as we try to make sense of our surroundings, we are vulnerable to mental exhaustion, or breakdowns. “I needed help, but still in the back of my mind was the feeling that I was crying wolf, that there was really nothing wrong. It would be terribly difficult for anyone to understand what was wrong because what was wrong was such a strange, elusive thing, the sort of thing it would be easy, almost logical to discount.” I don’t want to over-identify with Vonnegut’s memoir because our experiences are entirely different, and his much more serious, both in illness and extent. He writes wonderfully and accurately about mental illness. As someone who is studying the field, I can attest that this happens few and far in between. “In my more lucid moments I realised that insanity was a fairly reasonable explanation for what was happening to me. The problem was that it wasn’t useful information. Realising I was crazy didn’t make the crazy stuff stop happening. Nor did it give me any clues about what I should do next.” Maybe the science is a little different, and mostly schizophrenia is dealt with differently, but it still hasn’t been “cured”, we still have real issues understanding whether it’s in a gene, whether the pills do anything to help, or whether most people with mild schizophrenia will recover within a set time frame anyway. This memoir was a really wonderful read as a supporting text for my studies, but even if you have nothing to do with psychology, I’d recommend it highly.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Noelle Kukenas

    Read this back in the '70s because the author is the son of one of my favorite authors, only to discover what a brilliant writer he is in his own right. While reading about his journey with schizophrenia, it felt like I had crawled into his mind and was experiencing everything he was experiencing. This a book that stays with you years after you had read it. Read this back in the '70s because the author is the son of one of my favorite authors, only to discover what a brilliant writer he is in his own right. While reading about his journey with schizophrenia, it felt like I had crawled into his mind and was experiencing everything he was experiencing. This a book that stays with you years after you had read it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Dietzel

    Prior to spotting this book, I had no idea Kurt Vonnegut (who I am in awe of) had a son who wrote nonfiction. This book turned out to be fascinating for two reasons. 1) It's the true account of the author's descent into madness (a complete schizophrenic breakdown and relapse) and, 2) Stories involving Kurt Vonnegut are abundant. In one example, Mark mentions that even as a child, there was something about his father which made him be sure Kurt would commit suicide. I can't imagine a child having Prior to spotting this book, I had no idea Kurt Vonnegut (who I am in awe of) had a son who wrote nonfiction. This book turned out to be fascinating for two reasons. 1) It's the true account of the author's descent into madness (a complete schizophrenic breakdown and relapse) and, 2) Stories involving Kurt Vonnegut are abundant. In one example, Mark mentions that even as a child, there was something about his father which made him be sure Kurt would commit suicide. I can't imagine a child having that outlook about their father, and it forces you to look at some of Kurt's more somber and cynical books in a slightly different light. Both as an extension of learning about Kurt Vonnegut and for the account of Mark losing his mind, I really enjoyed this.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    This book was really hard for me to read and rate. I say it was hard for me to read because I have had two people close to me go nuts. All his ramblings reminded me so much of my friend's breakdown that I had to skip around because I couldn't take it. It really brought back a lot of feelings I went through while trying to help my friend and family member. It is not a fun or pleasant thing to go through for anyone, and if you read this and have no experience with a schizo, you may understand just a l This book was really hard for me to read and rate. I say it was hard for me to read because I have had two people close to me go nuts. All his ramblings reminded me so much of my friend's breakdown that I had to skip around because I couldn't take it. It really brought back a lot of feelings I went through while trying to help my friend and family member. It is not a fun or pleasant thing to go through for anyone, and if you read this and have no experience with a schizo, you may understand just a little better. I suggest this book to anyone who has suffered any mental illness, anyone with loved ones with mental illness or Kurt Vonnegut fans. It's interesting to read about him from his sons perspective at the time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    This book brought me on an existential trip. I actually had to stop reading it for a couple of days because I was living in the book instead of real life. Perfect for someone making a big life change, especially if that includes travelling or moving somewhere else. Intriguing look at schizophrenia and mental illness and what role that played in the age of rampant psychadellic drug usage

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    For reasons so recent and personal, the 1975 book written by Dr. Mark Vonnegut (son of the famed writer, Kurt Vonnegut) “The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity” was difficult to read. Reading this memoir is to accompany Mark Vonnegut in reliving a ‘psychotic episode’ which began after he left college and attempted to set up a self-sufficient farm in British Colombia. Events unfold in unfailingly honest detail, whether Vonnegut is recounting his relationships with family, interaction with others For reasons so recent and personal, the 1975 book written by Dr. Mark Vonnegut (son of the famed writer, Kurt Vonnegut) “The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity” was difficult to read. Reading this memoir is to accompany Mark Vonnegut in reliving a ‘psychotic episode’ which began after he left college and attempted to set up a self-sufficient farm in British Colombia. Events unfold in unfailingly honest detail, whether Vonnegut is recounting his relationships with family, interaction with others on the farm, or feelings of fear, or awe, and hallucinations. As the book progresses, readers do not watch Vonnegut ‘go crazy’. Instead, it's as though it's to experience a milder version of his psychosis alongside him: unsure how quickly or slowly time is lapsing, unsure at times which events are real or imagined, and feeling his frustration. For me, this book was perspective-changing & deepening. In terms of interacting with others who suffer from mental illness, it occurs to me that the only person who has the right to accept or reject ownership of feelings and actions is the person who experiences them: it is not okay for me to decide which parts of someone’s behavior are their own, which are ‘illness’ and which are the results of the chemicals they ingest. To do so would be for me to create a false version of them, cutting away the parts that make me uncomfortable. Though the Afterword (2002 edition) is very short, it was the part of this book that spoke to me the most, because it is testament to how quickly human understanding can change, and how necessary it can be to accept that change.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I was drawn to this one because I'm a big Kurt Vonnegut fan; in his memoirs KV mentions his son Mark's struggle with, and subsequent recovery from, schizophrenia in the early '70's. This tale is as tough as it is interesting, because MV does a great job of setting the scene for his breakdown: he left college and joined the hippie movement, hoping to start a commune in Canada, only to see his idealism come to an end in a mental hospital. As he relates his thoughts and actions during the times tha I was drawn to this one because I'm a big Kurt Vonnegut fan; in his memoirs KV mentions his son Mark's struggle with, and subsequent recovery from, schizophrenia in the early '70's. This tale is as tough as it is interesting, because MV does a great job of setting the scene for his breakdown: he left college and joined the hippie movement, hoping to start a commune in Canada, only to see his idealism come to an end in a mental hospital. As he relates his thoughts and actions during the times that he was insane (most of which he can remember) it's extremely uncomfortable to read. Let's face it, it's very troubling to face the possibility of losing our identities to what amounts to a chemical imbalance. Thankfully there's a happy ending. Kurt Vonnegut fans will appreciate hearing the "other side" of personal and family events that have been told in some of KV's most prominent works. As fascinating as this one is, I think most people will need to read it in small doses, as the inside view of insanity (which comprises about 2/3 of the book) is mentally exhausting. It absolutely increased my sympathy for anyone suffering from mental illness.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    One of my favorite biographies; an era, a family, a unique life! The book charted Mark's descent into schizophrenia. He was twice committed by his father. During this time of his breakdowns he was living in a hippie commune he helped found. While it is not the total point of the book, Mark does see some benefit in his internment in returning him to sanity. He even goes through a few paragraphs attacking some negative misconceptions on shock therapy, which he apparently views indifferently. Just p One of my favorite biographies; an era, a family, a unique life! The book charted Mark's descent into schizophrenia. He was twice committed by his father. During this time of his breakdowns he was living in a hippie commune he helped found. While it is not the total point of the book, Mark does see some benefit in his internment in returning him to sanity. He even goes through a few paragraphs attacking some negative misconceptions on shock therapy, which he apparently views indifferently. Just prior to each breakdown in the book, Mark was trying to reach out to people. His girlfriend was gone, his father to successful to be reached... This really puts a different spin on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and makes him one of the many artists where I separate my love for the art from any appreciation for the man!

  11. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    “Knowing that you’re crazy doesn’t make the crazy things stop happening.” This memoir chronicles Mark Vonnegut’s life living on a hippie commune farm in Canada; his battle and recovery from schizophrenic breaks. Much like his father, Mark is a talented and engaging writer. This story is open, uninhibited, and kind of bonkers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan (aka Just My Op)

    3 1/2 stars. This memoir of one man's descent into schizophrenia, as it was diagnosed then, was first published in 1975, and republished in 2002. I had never read it, and am getting a copy of Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir by the same author, so wanted to read the original before I read the followup. Mark was an idealistic, just-out-of-college hippie who thought starting a commune in British Columbia was a great idea. He was just trying to do the best he knew 3 1/2 stars. This memoir of one man's descent into schizophrenia, as it was diagnosed then, was first published in 1975, and republished in 2002. I had never read it, and am getting a copy of Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir by the same author, so wanted to read the original before I read the followup. Mark was an idealistic, just-out-of-college hippie who thought starting a commune in British Columbia was a great idea. He was just trying to do the best he knew how in a world as confusing to him as it was to so many in the early 70s. As he said in the preface to the first edition: If I had had a well-defined role in a stable culture, it might have been far simpler to sort things out. For a hippie, son of a counterculture hero, B. A. in religion, genetic biochemical disposition to schizophrenia, setting up a commune in the wilds of British Columbia, things tended to run together. His journey, his wild ride was sometimes hard to distinguish from the behavior of other hippies of the time. Idealistic, spiritual in that very 1970s way, not very practical but very sincere. And then he hit bottom where his behavior could no longer be given a free pass. The book is quite interesting, as much for viewing how mental illness was perceived and treated then as it is for Dr. Vonnegut's story. Occasionally, it was hard for me to separate reality from his delusional perceptions, but that just made me see that, from his point of view, there was no difference. Occasionally the book moved too slowly or too quickly for me, but again, so did his perception of time. Overall, I found it to be a very worthwhile read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mariam

    I'd describe this book as a "heavy" read. Heavy mostly due to the emotional roller coaster that comes in, the Eden Express might be able to make you relate to or at least truly empathize with what people who have schizophrenia go through.... Sometimes it was hard for me to read and relate to the hippiedom that he was describing, so the reading was a bit slow at the start, but reading further in the book, i wished i had cherished that part more because it got stressful fast (but difficult to put I'd describe this book as a "heavy" read. Heavy mostly due to the emotional roller coaster that comes in, the Eden Express might be able to make you relate to or at least truly empathize with what people who have schizophrenia go through.... Sometimes it was hard for me to read and relate to the hippiedom that he was describing, so the reading was a bit slow at the start, but reading further in the book, i wished i had cherished that part more because it got stressful fast (but difficult to put it down). I read this book primarily to understand an ex roommate of mine, who, i suspect, had paranoid schizophrenia. A pleasant side effect was also me learning how to cope with a mood disorder. Me having depression and anxiety, which, along with schizophrenia, are considered mood disorders, I gained insight as to how to cope and manage them. Overall a wonderful, honest treasure and an insightful read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    i would add this to the list of books i should have read years ago. While i have not lived the experiences of the writer, much of the material-- theory, visions and perspectives-- parallels much of what has been resident in my head since leaving college. I would recommend this tale to anyone who has ever felt driven to insanity by the world we face daily, or to those who have wanted to change or save the world, or to people who do not want or cannot blend with the herd or who have seen the apoca i would add this to the list of books i should have read years ago. While i have not lived the experiences of the writer, much of the material-- theory, visions and perspectives-- parallels much of what has been resident in my head since leaving college. I would recommend this tale to anyone who has ever felt driven to insanity by the world we face daily, or to those who have wanted to change or save the world, or to people who do not want or cannot blend with the herd or who have seen the apocalypse and can't just grin and bear it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Holy moley. Could this man write like his father - but in an entirely opposite style. If you are from BC, you will especially like this, as it takes place on a commune near Powell River, and in Vancouver. I wrote "could" because his recent memoir is an utter disappointment. This is a speeding mind at its most intense. If you've ever felt overwhelmed, read this and know that you are far from overwhelmed. Holy moley. Could this man write like his father - but in an entirely opposite style. If you are from BC, you will especially like this, as it takes place on a commune near Powell River, and in Vancouver. I wrote "could" because his recent memoir is an utter disappointment. This is a speeding mind at its most intense. If you've ever felt overwhelmed, read this and know that you are far from overwhelmed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adriana Paramo

    At various points it felt as though it was me who was losing it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Renata

    Never before has a book so successfully made me feel like I was loosing my grip on reality. In doing such however, the author has made several sections of the book somewhat incomprehensible.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John

    fascinating look beyond the walls of sanity, a self-portrait from a gifted writer

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily Dawn Shader

    The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity is the story of a man named Mark Vonnegut. Mark is the son of the famous author Kurt Vonnegut (author of Salughterhouse-Five). This memoir tells the tail of Mark's journey through insanity. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Through this journey he has several mental breakdowns and has to be institutionalized, but he overcomes his disease and become a successful pediatrician after attending Harvard Medical School. This story of Mark's life starts The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity is the story of a man named Mark Vonnegut. Mark is the son of the famous author Kurt Vonnegut (author of Salughterhouse-Five). This memoir tells the tail of Mark's journey through insanity. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Through this journey he has several mental breakdowns and has to be institutionalized, but he overcomes his disease and become a successful pediatrician after attending Harvard Medical School. This story of Mark's life starts out with him, his indifferent girlfriend Virginia, and his trusting companion Zeke. They all take an adventure to British Columbia and purchase some land for a very cheap price. On this land is some run down building but they and some friends of theirs work hard to refurbish the house. They plan to make a farm and a commune with their friends out of all this land. This place brings great joy to mark, but as he returns to New York City to visit his father he finds his self falling apart and crying uncontrollably. This is the very beginning of his fall into insanity. Through his illness, Mark experienced suicidal thoughts and was participating in self-starvation. He only turned to medication as an aid after he had already been institutionalized twice. Mark's "hippie" lifestyle and superfluous of freedom was too much for him to handle. Was it the way he was living his life that made him go insane of was it just a chemical imbalance in his brain? Well, only science can tell. Read this wonderful memoir to experience the journey of a man through insanity and back to be moved about how much things can change in very little time. I chose this book because not only had I just finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five, but I also have a big fascination with schizophrenia. I enjoyed this book, but Mark Vonnegut just doesn't seem to say things about the world quite as well as his father does. This book was a good read and a moving memoir, I just had some trouble getting through it. Although, this could be do to my chronic struggle to find books that interest me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    An extremely well-written book by Kurt Vonnegut's son about his own experience of mental illness. Although not much happens, objectively speaking, in this novel, I never got bored. M. Vonnegut's writing style reminds me especially of John Fante's (which is unusual), enough so as to seem deliberate, but not imitative. This novel is similar enough to Behrmen's "Electroboy", like a prehistoric version, that if I was still in grad school, I'd've combined the two reviews in one paper. Vonnegut's acce An extremely well-written book by Kurt Vonnegut's son about his own experience of mental illness. Although not much happens, objectively speaking, in this novel, I never got bored. M. Vonnegut's writing style reminds me especially of John Fante's (which is unusual), enough so as to seem deliberate, but not imitative. This novel is similar enough to Behrmen's "Electroboy", like a prehistoric version, that if I was still in grad school, I'd've combined the two reviews in one paper. Vonnegut's acceptance of (the very WORST) medications--like sodium pentothal and thorazine--as a necessary part of his recovery seems motivated more by helplessness than wisdom, the poor guy, but that's only a guess. Here's a sample of his inner (schizophrenic) dialogue from pp 236-7: "There seemed to be others." "Think about it a minute. If there really were others around, what are you doing here? You must have had your suspicions that something was going on. Weren't they more and more just reflections of yourself? It got lonely and so you decided to hang it up? That's the way I figure it works. I don't know for sure. I'm still trying to find out." "From time to time I figured something like that might be going on. I just thought it would be bad manners to call them on it." "1971? Jesus, are you sure about that?" "Pretty sure." "That's amazing. I thought I was something making it to '54." "I guess I was just trying to be polite." "I'm pretty sure there really wasn't much of anybody left when you split. there was just about no one when I finally hung it up. just a bunch of bodies people left around that sat around reflecting you in funny ways . . . They leave their bodies with just enough vitality to make a half-passable show, waiting and wondering how long it will be till you figure it out. Giving more and more hints that they're not really there, making you curious about where the hell they went."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Seth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book lacks any literary merit. It is about a young man's descent into schizophrenia and his ultimate pharmacological treatment. While this is a worthwhile topic, I was very disappointed in the quality of the writing. In addition, I was put off by the gratuitous slight the author aimed at his girlfriend at the end. He mentions that it was more difficult for him to leave his favorite pet than part ways with her. (He was mad that she slept with someone else. Very petty, considering how she vis This book lacks any literary merit. It is about a young man's descent into schizophrenia and his ultimate pharmacological treatment. While this is a worthwhile topic, I was very disappointed in the quality of the writing. In addition, I was put off by the gratuitous slight the author aimed at his girlfriend at the end. He mentions that it was more difficult for him to leave his favorite pet than part ways with her. (He was mad that she slept with someone else. Very petty, considering how she visited him at the psychiatric hospital and worked hard helping him adjust to life on the outside). How bad is the writing? Here is the description of how the author, a self-described "hippie" living in a commune in British Columbia during the war in Vietnam, felt after taking a rare shower: "Clean, clean, clean. Feeling good, good, good. Clean me, clean clothes." This hardly lives up to the standards one might expect from a Vonnegut. Of personal interest to me was the author's extensive commentary on his experience as a religion major at Swarthmore in the 1960s. He says that Swarthmore had essentially two majors: engineering and "Swarthmore." As he elaborates, psychology majors at this small college took the same or similar classes as sociology or religion majors. I once considered accepting an offer of admission there because the school was known for intellectual rigor, but reading this book offered me some much-delayed therapy. For other readers who don't have any particular interest in this school, the Swarthmore focus might grate on the nerves. I understand that later in life, the author, by now a physician and a graduate of Harvard Medical School, wrote a much better book on the same subject. Thank goodness for that!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Written from the perspective of someone caught in the grip of schizophrenia, The Eden Express is, for the most part, very difficult to read. For one thing, it resonated with me because of my own bout with bipolar disorder. It was also difficult to read because of the disconnected nature of the narrative. The author's point of view, for the first 3/4 of the book is tainted by his chemical imbalance. The part of the book concerning his treatment is far more palatable and informative. Vonnegut, in Written from the perspective of someone caught in the grip of schizophrenia, The Eden Express is, for the most part, very difficult to read. For one thing, it resonated with me because of my own bout with bipolar disorder. It was also difficult to read because of the disconnected nature of the narrative. The author's point of view, for the first 3/4 of the book is tainted by his chemical imbalance. The part of the book concerning his treatment is far more palatable and informative. Vonnegut, in the updated version of the book, acknowledges that what he actually had was more akin to bipolar disorder/manic depression than full blown schizophrenia. The book was written in the aftermath of the "crack-ups", as they came to be known. I read this book for a number of reasons. I have always loved his late father's work. I also wanted to read something by an author who had true insight about what going through the stages of illness and then treatment. I read Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania several years ago. It was somewhat similar in that the author, Andy Behrman, shared his own recollection of his own experience with hypermania. Vonnegut's memoir is more lucid. The edition I read also contains a letter from Vonnegut to a friend suffering from schizophrenia. I'd recommend that anyone with mental illness read the letter, as it contains a myriad of bits of advice for those going in for treatment. It could also give a little bit of insight for the family members and friends affected by the patient's disorder, whether it is schizophrenia or manic depression.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Beav

    This book was an adventure into madness. Amazing, if its accurate of how good a memory mark has. He is the son of the author kurt vonnegut and thats how i got turned on to the book. A first person autobiography of about 2 years of his life when he suffered from schizophrenia and then somehow came out of it. It reminded be of the movie A Beautiful Mind alot, except Mark was an upper middle class Swarthmore grad hippy in the early 70's, went up to BC, started a commune, didn't do to many drugs, an This book was an adventure into madness. Amazing, if its accurate of how good a memory mark has. He is the son of the author kurt vonnegut and thats how i got turned on to the book. A first person autobiography of about 2 years of his life when he suffered from schizophrenia and then somehow came out of it. It reminded be of the movie A Beautiful Mind alot, except Mark was an upper middle class Swarthmore grad hippy in the early 70's, went up to BC, started a commune, didn't do to many drugs, and then cracked up went crazy, went to hollywood mental hospital a couple of times, some how got well, ended up going to medical school and now he has a PhD. This book is nothing like a Kurt book but mark did inherit some of his wit. I enjoyed the book because it takes you on a battle of the mind. Shows some serious insanity, that almost seems real, which is always the case i suppose. It's hard to admit when your perception is wrong, and near impossible when you're a schizo. Mark really gets the insanity accross. A couple of memorable quotes..."Once you hear the voices, you realize they've always been there. It's just a matter of being tuned to them." and "What do you do when you realize there is nothing to do?" good book

  24. 5 out of 5

    Antoinette

    It seems sometimes that there is a direct relationship between how hard I try to be a good person and how sad I get about the world. Mark Vonnegut became insane chasing a lot of the feelings I sometimes get caught up in. During the 1960s he is very involved in being a "good hippie" (his words, not mine). His quest to be unselfish and rational leads him down a frightening path of insanity, and eventually recovery. This is an amazing memoir, and I'm very glad I read it. I related so much to his fe It seems sometimes that there is a direct relationship between how hard I try to be a good person and how sad I get about the world. Mark Vonnegut became insane chasing a lot of the feelings I sometimes get caught up in. During the 1960s he is very involved in being a "good hippie" (his words, not mine). His quest to be unselfish and rational leads him down a frightening path of insanity, and eventually recovery. This is an amazing memoir, and I'm very glad I read it. I related so much to his feelings about fidelity and love. Of feeling that it is ridiculous to care about who put what where and when, but still having feelings of betrayal and ownership over a person. He met so many interesting and compassionate souls and bonded deeply with nature, but his chemistry still made him sort of an unstable time bomb. I'm very glad he was able to recover enough to write this book. There was just so much about it that was absolutely perfect, and I'll never forget the experience. So many of his thoughts have earned a place in my mind, but I'll leave you with a favorite: “Having their feelings make sense is how people get their kicks. It's regrets that make painful memories. When I was crazy I did everything just right.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Rose

    Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors of all time. Before goodreads I didn't even know his son had written anything, but after reading the reviews on this book I decided to pick it up. The first half of this book Is just Mark Vonnegut describing life after college on his hippie commune with his hippie college friends and although the writing wasn't terrible, I had to push myself through because it was a pretty boring. I found myself thinking, "come on, just go crazy already!!" And then it h Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors of all time. Before goodreads I didn't even know his son had written anything, but after reading the reviews on this book I decided to pick it up. The first half of this book Is just Mark Vonnegut describing life after college on his hippie commune with his hippie college friends and although the writing wasn't terrible, I had to push myself through because it was a pretty boring. I found myself thinking, "come on, just go crazy already!!" And then it happened. And it was the most uncomfortable reading experience of my life. Mark Vonnegut takes you on a terrifying journey through the mind of a schizophrenic and back. I was intrigued yet frightened; it evoked emotions that I've never experienced through books before, and in my teenage years I read quite a few books authored by people suffering from mental illness. And for that I gave it 3 stars. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining insight and understanding into the world of schizophrenia. I commend Mark for helping to humanize insanity and rid the stigma surrounding mental illness.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Noam Heller

    One of the most captivating memoirs I've read! I was completely hooked, moment to moment. I imagined the farm, his friends, how the atmosphere went from awe-inspiring to downright terrifying. On the one hand, "losing it" in a hippielike, open-minded environment always seemed to me like a relatively soft landing as you spiral into madness. But sometimes the over tolerance to your bizarre behavior is a cause for more chaos. So it was interesting to see how despite the patience and acceptance withi One of the most captivating memoirs I've read! I was completely hooked, moment to moment. I imagined the farm, his friends, how the atmosphere went from awe-inspiring to downright terrifying. On the one hand, "losing it" in a hippielike, open-minded environment always seemed to me like a relatively soft landing as you spiral into madness. But sometimes the over tolerance to your bizarre behavior is a cause for more chaos. So it was interesting to see how despite the patience and acceptance within the farm, he still desperately needed professional help. Thankfully I've never been through a psychotic episode but I think anyone who has experimented with drugs and can account for a "bad trip" will be able to somewhat relate to that dread and terror and fear and confusion.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Kurt Vonnegut's son graduates from college circa '69 and goes off with friends to a farm in B.C. to live the hippie-new-society-commune dream. But, oops, along the way he goes nuts! That always throws a monkey wrench into the works. This autobiographical work (sole book by Vonnegut Jr. as far as I know) provides a good glimpse into schizophrenia, but is perhaps equally valuable as a contemporary portrait of hippie life, culture & philosophy by a participant. He indicts hippie culture to some ext Kurt Vonnegut's son graduates from college circa '69 and goes off with friends to a farm in B.C. to live the hippie-new-society-commune dream. But, oops, along the way he goes nuts! That always throws a monkey wrench into the works. This autobiographical work (sole book by Vonnegut Jr. as far as I know) provides a good glimpse into schizophrenia, but is perhaps equally valuable as a contemporary portrait of hippie life, culture & philosophy by a participant. He indicts hippie culture to some extent as enabling him to go nuts, but only to some extent. Very illuminating. Makes a nice pairing with Krakauer's "Into the Wild."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nate Jordon

    A beautiful, terrifying memoir about one man's descent into mania and insanity. As the only son of a father who was a paranoid schizophrenic, who died before I got a chance to know him and understand his condition, Vonnegut's book answered many questions I've had for a long, long time. What the disease does to the diseased, the consequences it has on friends and family, social and cultural implications...Vonnegut approaches all these themes and ideas while maintaining a cohesive narrative that i A beautiful, terrifying memoir about one man's descent into mania and insanity. As the only son of a father who was a paranoid schizophrenic, who died before I got a chance to know him and understand his condition, Vonnegut's book answered many questions I've had for a long, long time. What the disease does to the diseased, the consequences it has on friends and family, social and cultural implications...Vonnegut approaches all these themes and ideas while maintaining a cohesive narrative that is both entertaining and educational.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Philipp

    Relatively interesting autobiography of Vonnegut's son developing schizophrenia, while being part of the 70s counter-culture - realistic (albeit tiring) rambling of all the things that went through his head, and interesting reactions of his surroundings (something like "mental illness is a myth perpetuated by the man to keep us down"). It does get boring in endless descriptions of those people around him. Recommended for: those interested in what happens to people developing a mental illness Relatively interesting autobiography of Vonnegut's son developing schizophrenia, while being part of the 70s counter-culture - realistic (albeit tiring) rambling of all the things that went through his head, and interesting reactions of his surroundings (something like "mental illness is a myth perpetuated by the man to keep us down"). It does get boring in endless descriptions of those people around him. Recommended for: those interested in what happens to people developing a mental illness

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

    Far out, real life tale of Mark Vonnegut's initial bout with schizophrenia while living on a commune in British Columbia. He has a really hard time figuring out if he's discovered the meaning of life, has taken too many drugs, or is going insane. Reveals a bit about Mark's relationship with his father Kurt, too. Basically, the reason you should read this book is because it's so bizarre and spell-binding. Reminiscent of the late 60s, early 70s. Amazingly well written first-person perspective. Far out, real life tale of Mark Vonnegut's initial bout with schizophrenia while living on a commune in British Columbia. He has a really hard time figuring out if he's discovered the meaning of life, has taken too many drugs, or is going insane. Reveals a bit about Mark's relationship with his father Kurt, too. Basically, the reason you should read this book is because it's so bizarre and spell-binding. Reminiscent of the late 60s, early 70s. Amazingly well written first-person perspective.

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