There have not been many memoirs of mania, so Electroboy
is a welcome addition to the form. Andy Behrman tells his story
well, and his mania has ensured that he has an interesting story
to tell. Prior to receiving medication, Behrman lived a fast exotic
high-expense life full of drugs, drink, exclusive restaurants,
promiscuous sex, working as a publicist for best-selling authors
and as an art dealer. He reached the height of his notoriety when
he was tried for fraudulently selling art by the artist Mark Kostabi,
which was particularly ironic since Kostabi boasted that he never
painted his own works, but employed other artists at minimum wage
to paint them for him. Behrman's defense rested on the idea that
since Kostabi got others to paint his paintings and even sign
his name, it was impossible for there to be any such thing as
a Kostabi forgery.
Behrman was found guilty, and his many friends and family submitted
testimonials to his good character. It's a strange moment in the
book, because although these documents show him to be an extraordinarily
kind, caring, and good person, he is not able to convey these
qualities in his own writing. Instead, he comes across as narcissistic,
self-indulgent, duplicitous, and avaricious. Of course, it might
be well be that his mania was responsible for his morally reprehensible
actions, but if this is so, then he gives the reader very little
sense of what his healthy non-manic character is like. The book
jacket tells us that Behrman currently lives mania-free, but it
is very hard to imagine what his life is now like.
Nevertheless, Electroboy is entertaining and manages to
convey some understanding of the wildness of thought, emotion,
and action that characterizes mania. It also gives a sense of
the ways that medications take over for people with severe mental
disorders. At the end of the book, Behrman is taking Depakote,
Risperdal, Symmetrel, Topamax, Klonopin, BuSpar, Propranolol,
Benadryl and Ambien every day. Throughout the book he recounts
the many other medications he has taken, the long courses of electroshock
treatment he has taken, and the many psychotherapists he has seen.
Although treatment often provides temporary help, his experience
does not provide strong reason to think that any particular combination
of pills and other treatments can establish his mental health
permanently. Behrman's book is a testament to both the power and
limitations of current psychiatric knowledge.
Author website: electroboy.com
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.
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