Mental Health
Resources

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
50 Signs of Mental IllnessA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Bright Red ScreamA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Corner Of The UniverseA Lethal InheritanceA Mood ApartA Research Agenda for DSM-VA Slant of SunA War of NervesAbnormal Psychology in ContextADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeAddiction Recovery ToolsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAl-JununAlmost a PsychopathAlterations of ConsciousnessAm I Okay?American ManiaAmerican Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical NeurosciencesAn American ObsessionAngelheadAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnthology of a Crazy LadyApproaching NeverlandAs Nature Made HimAsylumAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderBeing Mentally Ill: A Sociological Theory Betrayal TraumaBetrayed as BoysBetter Than ProzacBetter Than WellBeyond AppearanceBeyond ReasonBinge No MoreBiological UnhappinessBipolar DisorderBipolar DisorderBipolar Disorder DemystifiedBlack-eyed SuzieBlaming the BrainBleeding to Ease the PainBluebirdBlueprints Clinical Cases in PsychiatryBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBorderline Personality DisorderBrain Circuitry and Signaling in PsychiatryBrave New BrainBreakdown of WillBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Therapy Homework PlannerCalm EnergyCassandra's DaughterCaught in the NetChild and Adolescent Treatment for Social Work PracticeChildren Changed by TraumaChronic Fatigue Syndrome (The Facts)Clinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthCognitive Theories of Mental IllnessCommonsense RebellionCommunity and In-Home Behavioral Health TreatmentComprehending SuicideConcise Guide to Child and Adolescent PsychiatryConquering Post-Traumatic Stress DisorderConscience and ConvenienceConsciousnessConsole and ClassifyContesting PsychiatryCoping With TraumaCopshockCrazy for YouCrazy in AmericaCrazy Like UsCreating HysteriaCritical PsychiatryCruel CompassionCultural Assessment in Clinical PsychiatryCulture and Mental HealthCulture and Psychiatric DiagnosisCultures of NeurastheniaDaddy's GirlsDante's CureDarwinian PsychiatryDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDaughters of MadnessDeinstitutionalization And People With Intellectual DisabilitiesDelivered from DistractionDepression In Later LifeDepression SourcebookDepression-Free for LifeDescriptions and PrescriptionsDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TRDirty Filthy Love DVDDisorders Of DesireDisrupted LivesDissociative ChildrenDivided MindsDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Optimum HealthDr. Weisinger's Anger Work-Out BookDSM-IV SourcebookDSM-IV-TR CasebookDSM-IV-TR in ActionDSM-IV-TR Mental DisordersE-TherapyEccentricsElectroshockEmergencies in Mental Health PracticeEmergency PsychiatryEmotional and Behavioral Problems of Young ChildrenEmotions and LifeEmpowering People with Severe Mental IllnessEssential PsychopharmacologyEssentials of Cas AssessmentEssentials of Wais-III AssessmentEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in Psychiatric ResearchEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEverything In Its PlaceFamily Experiences With Mental IllnessFatigue as a Window to the BrainFear of IntimacyFinding Iris ChangFinding Meaning in the Experience of DementiaFlorid StatesFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItForensic Nursing and Multidisciplinary Care of the Mentally Disordered OffenderFountain HouseFrom Madness to Mental HealthFrom Trauma to TransformationGandhi's WayGender and Its Effects on PsychopathologyGender and Mental HealthGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGetting Your Life BackGracefully InsaneGrieving Mental IllnessHandbook of AttachmentHandbook of DepressionHandbook of Self and IdentityHealing the SplitHerbs for the MindHidden SelvesHigh RiskHope and DespairHow Clients Make Therapy WorkHow People ChangeHow to Become a SchizophrenicHow We Think About DementiaHughes' Outline of Modern PsychiatryHumanizing MadnessHysterical MenHystoriesI Hate You-Don't Leave MeI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Thought I Could FlyI'm CrazyImagining RobertImpulse Control DisordersIn Others' EyesIn Two MindsInsanityIntegrated Behavioral Health CareIntegrative MedicineIntegrative Mental Health CareIntuitionJust CheckingKarl JaspersKissing DoorknobsKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersLaw and the BrainLaw, Liberty, and PsychiatryLegal and Ethical Aspects of HealthcareLiberatory PsychiatryLife at the BottomLife at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997Life Is Not a Game of PerfectLithium for MedeaLiving Outside Mental IllnessLiving with AnxietyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLiving Without Depression and Manic DepressionLost in the MirrorLove's ExecutionerLoving Someone With Bipolar DisorderMad in AmericaMad TravelersMad, Bad and SadMadhouseMadnessMadness at HomeMadness in Buenos AiresManaged Care ContractingMandated Reporting of Suspected Child AbuseManic Depression and CreativityMary BarnesMasters of the MindMeasuring PsychopathologyMedia MadnessMedicine As MinistryMelancholy And the Care of the SoulMemory, Brain, and BeliefMental HealthMental Health At The CrossroadsMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities Mental Health MattersMental Health Policy in BritainMental Health Policy in BritainMental Health Professionals, Minorities and the PoorMental IllnessMental Illness and Your TownMental Illness, Medicine and LawMental SlaveryMindfulness in Plain EnglishModels of MadnessMothers Who Kill Their ChildrenMozart's Brain and the Fighter PilotMultifamily Groups in the Treatment of Severe Psychiatric DisordersMuses, Madmen, and ProphetsMyths of ChildhoodNapkin NotesNeural MisfireNew Hope For People With Bipolar DisorderNight Falls FastNo Enemies WithinNolaNormalNot CrazyNovember of the SoulOf Two MindsOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn Our Own, TogetherOn The Stigma Of Mental IllnessOrigins of Human NatureOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOvercoming Compulsive HoardingPathologies of BeliefPathways through PainPersonal Recovery and Mental IllnessPersonality Disorder: Temperament or Trauma?Pillar of SaltPoints of ViewPoppy ShakespearePosttraumatic Stress DisorderPsychiatric Cultures ComparedPsychiatric Diagnosis and ClassificationPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychiatric Illness in WomenPsychiatrists and Traditional HealersPsychiatryPsychiatry and ReligionPsychiatry in SocietyPsychological Dimensions of the SelfPsychology and the MediaPsychopathia SexualisPsychopathologyPsychopathyPsychotic DepressionQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising a Moody ChildRapid Cognitive TherapyRebuilding Shattered LivesReclaiming Soul in Health CareReclaiming the SoulRecollection, Testimony, and Lying in Early ChildhoodRecovery from SchizophreniaRecovery in Mental IllnessRedressing the EmperorRelational Mental HealthRemembering TraumaRepressed SpacesResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsRestricted AccessRethinking the DSMReviving OpheliaRewarding Specialties for Mental Health CliniciansSaints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural IrelandSchizophreniaSchizophrenia RevealedSchizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion?Self-Determination Theory in the ClinicShunnedShynessSigns of SafetySilencing the VoicesSlackjawSocial Cognition and SchizophreniaSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSoul Murder RevisitedSounds from the Bell JarSpeaking Our MindsSpontaneous HealingStop PretendingStraight Talk about Psychological Testing for KidsStranger Than FictionStreet CrazyStudy Guide to the DSM-IV-TRSurviving Manic DepressionSurviving SchizophreniaSurviving SchizophreniaTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaking the Fear Out of ChangingTalking Back to PsychiatryTarnationTeen LoveTelling Is Risky BusinessTelling SecretsThe Age of InsanityThe American Psychiatric Press Textbook of PsychiatryThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Anger WorkbookThe Anorexic SelfThe Behavioral Medicine Treatment PlannerThe Betty Ford Center Book of AnswersThe Bipolar ChildThe Bipolar Disorder Survival GuideThe Body in PsychotherapyThe Borderline Personality Disorder Survival GuideThe Broken MirrorThe Burden of SympathyThe Cambridge Medical Ethics WorkbookThe Case for Pragmatic PsychologyThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chemical Dependence Treatment Documentation SourcebookThe Chemical Dependence Treatment PlannerThe Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Clinical Child Documentation SourcebookThe Clinical Documentation SourcebookThe Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Condition of MadnessThe Construction of Power and Authority in PsychiatryThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Criminal BrainThe Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and MedicineThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Death of PsychotherapyThe Depression WorkbookThe Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric PatientThe Early Stages of SchizophreniaThe Employee Assistance Treatment PlannerThe Employee Assistance Treatment PlannerThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality DisorderThe Essentials of New York Mental Health LawThe Ethical WayThe Evolution of Mental Health LawThe Explosive ChildThe Fall Of An IconThe Fasting GirlThe Forensic Documentation SourcebookThe Forgotten MournersThe Gift of Adult ADDThe Good EaterThe Green ParrotThe Healing Power of PetsThe Heart of AddictionThe Heroic ClientThe Insanity OffenseThe Invisible PlagueThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Limits of Autobiography The LobotomistThe Madness of Our LivesThe Mark of ShameThe Meaning of AddictionThe Meaning of MindThe Medical AdvisorThe Mind/Mood Pill BookThe Most Solitary of AfflictionsThe Mozart EffectThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Older Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe OutsiderThe Pastoral Counseling Treatment PlannerThe PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines & Healing TherapiesThe Places That Scare YouThe Plural SelfThe Problem of EvilThe Psychology of Religion and CopingThe Quiet RoomThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Right to Refuse Mental Health TreatmentThe Rise of Mental Health NursingThe Roots of the Recovery Movement in PsychiatryThe Savage GirlThe Self-Help SourcebookThe Talking CureThe Trick Is to Keep BreathingThe Unwell BrainThe Virtuous PsychiatristThe Way of TransitionThe Wing of MadnessThe Wisdom in FeelingTheoretical Evolutions in Person-Centered/Experiential TherapyTherapy's DelusionsTheraScribe 3.0 for WindowsThis is Madness TooThoughts Without a ThinkerThrough the Looking GlassTo Have Or To Be?Toxic PsychiatryTransforming MadnessTraumaTraumatic PastsTraumatic Relationships and Serious Mental DisordersTreating Affect PhobiaTreating Chronic and Severe Mental DisordersTreating Self-InjuryTreatment and Rehabilitation of Severe Mental IllnessTreatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety DisordersTwinsUnderstanding and Treating Violent Psychiatric PatientsUnderstanding Child MolestersUnderstanding DepressionUnderstanding ParanoiaUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnholy MadnessUnspeakable Truths and Happy EndingsUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryViolence and Mental DisorderVoices of MadnessVoices of RecoveryVulnerability to PsychopathologyWarning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental HealthWashing My Life AwayWhen History Is a NightmareWhen Someone You Love Is BipolarWhen the Body SpeaksWhen Walls Become DoorwaysWitchcrazeWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and Mental IllnessWomen Who Hurt ThemselvesWomen's Mental HealthWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Drug May Be Your ProblemYour Miracle Brain

Related Topics
NolaReview - Nola
A Memoir of Faith, Art & Madness
by Robin Hemley
Graywolf Press, 1998
Review by Brent Dean Robbins
Jun 30th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 26)

Who is Nola? In essence, this is the question that haunts Robin Hemley in his memoir devoted to exploring the world of his sister and her eventual descent into madness. Yet Hemley is no psychologist, nor a philosopher or anthropologist; rather, he is a writer, and more importantly, a brother. In his interrogation of the fabric of Nola's world, his own world is implicated, as is his mother's and father's, and the tangled web of relations that was Nola's life--and by implication his own--unfolds in Hemley's delicate yet relentlessly honest prose. Hemley's strength is that unlike the psychologist, for instance, his labor is not in the service of weaving together the many strands of Nola's story into a tightly knit web of facts that corroborate with a theory or diagnostic label, nor is his work aiming toward a critical investigation of medicine or madness in general. In fact, what is notable and noble about Hemley's wonderful book is that it offers no easy solutions. His question--Who is Nola?--is asked in the service of generating only more questions. And, in the end, it is not only Nola's soul that he questions and ponders; his task turns out to be nothing less than the work of saving his own soul.

Hemley's wisdom resides in his recognize that his story about Nola is a story as much about himself as his sister. And it is a struggle to contend not only with Nola's madness and death, but with his own madness and guilt surrounding his reverse Midas touch: that those he loves dies. And so it is touching, in retrospect, to read Hemley recover a yellowing journal, where he had scribbled notes about his future story of Nola. He writes:

What is the story?

Is it about Nola going mad? No, too long a tale.
Is it about death? No
Is it about Change? No
or is it about love?--Yes

If it is about any one
of these four things,
then the others must be
removed.

Cut out the madness
Cut out the death

Thus, Hemley writes in the spirit of a hermeneutic of love. His journey relies not simply upon his memories, or the recollections of his mother and brother, but also contends with the scraps of herself Nola has left behind in the form of her notes, poetry and drawings. And where Hemley finds the notes lead to nowhere, or are too ambiguous to decipher in any coherent way, he gives her the benefit of the doubt, or he leaves the notes to speak for themselves. Hemley's hermeneutics of love in the telling of his sister's story is a lesson, perhaps, for psychology. After all, Hemley does tell a tale of madness, death, and change, but these themes are read through a lens of love, and for this reason alone, Nola emerges in her humanity rather than a specimen for our inquiring gaze.

Hemley writes, "We are constantly, as we read, looking for conclusions, judgments to be made, sometimes villains. I suppose I am the villain in all this for writing it down, manipulating the texts I choose to uncover for you, the juxtapositions. I am playing God, manipulating." From out of his hermeneutics of love for Nola, -Hemley finds himself guilty in the imposition of his own interpretations. He wants to present his sister, his mother, his friends in their truth, but discovers that who and what they are transcends his every effort to pin them down. It is, one suspects, out of an ethics of a hermeneutics of love that Hemley confesses to his guilt. In the end, Nola's story can't be other than Hemley's story, an admission of guilt, and also a confessional. And what Hemley has to teach us, through Nola and his own confessions, are that the distortions that we live through--the distortions that we are--are the very basis upon which truth is a condition of possibility. It is in the telling of the story that truth happens: "It is precisely the distortions that tell us who we are."

It is Hemley's unceasing doubt and skepticism, one suspects, that makes him different from his sister. His everyday "pathology" is the logos of suffering in the face of uncertainty. When he returns to a childhood memory of seeing a ghost with his brother, he is not sure whether to believe his own eyes. Nola would have believed. She would have asserted the reality of the ghost; she would have believed her own eyes. And it is Nola's almost innocent desire to believe, and to have certainty, that seems to provide at least one constituent in the whole matrix of events leading to her madness. When Nola gives up her faith, health, body and mind to a guru, and as a result begins a severe fasting ritual, she becomes lost in the convolutions of her own certainty, her own will to believe which becomes ironically a loss of will. "What she was looking for," suggests Hemley, "was that fragile part of the soul that doesn't repudiate. . ."

Within the circle of interpretations of Hemley's hermeneutics of love, he is always implicated, always guilty, always confessing, always in the process of sense-making. Making sense, Hemley's implies, is a faculty he shares with Nola. As he writes, "what terrifies me most about life are exactly those moments that are unremarkable and bland, that are erasable. Loss of memory terrifies me. Loss of identity terrifies me." He suggests that he, like Nola, is only capable of memory and identity to the extent that he is making sense, and at the end of sense is madness or death or something worse, but certainly a loss of some sort, something irrevocable, unrecoverable. Like his sister. And like the many people who Hemley's loved in his life who are now gone: his father, his sister, and his friends Jimmy and Lonnie.

What haunts the reader at the close of Nola is not simply Nola's madness, but the recognition in the end of Hemley's need to write the book. If it is not simply a book about madness, or change, or death, what is it about? Certainly love, yes, but more than love: through a hermeneutics of love it is ultimately a confession, an admission of guilt, and a search for redemption. All those who Hemley loves die, and by writing down their names, telling their stories, he wants to save their lives from his own omnipotent wishes, the violence of his own interpretations. That he doubts his omnipotence, perhaps, is what saves him and redeems him, and how Hemley, when all is said and done, does not go the way of his sister.

If one is searching for a book which explains madness and the family from the hermeneutics of science, Nola is certainly not the book to read. It offers no explanations, no formulas, no theoretical analyses. But if one is seeking an exemplary case of a work told from a hermeneutics of love, and a tale of madness and the family in that interpretative frame, I can think of no text better than Hemley's Nola. In that sense, Hemley tells a tale of love, change, death and madness that is often a tale yet to be told by the science of medicine and psychiatry, and for that reason alone, I hope it is read with care and with love for years to come.

© Brent Dean Robbins, 2001
 

Brent Dean Robbins is a Ph.D. Candidate in Clinical Psychology at Duquesne University, where he teaches and performs counseling at the University Counseling Center. Among his duties as co-editor of the journal Janus Head and partner of Trivium Publications, he is in the process of finishing his phenomenological and critical theoretical analysis of the emotion of joy.


Share

Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7900 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'


Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!


Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716