Put sex, drugs, art forgeries, and manic depression into a blender, run it at top speed for 10 minutes, and out pops Electroboy
, Andy Behrman's high-octane autobiography. The story begins as an exhilarating view into the manic's world, with spontaneous flights to Tokyo, sketchy East Village bars, and a nonstop inner dialogue that makes your pulse race just to keep up. The remainder of the book slows down considerably, starting with Behrman's New Jersey childhood and winding through a successful education, a rapid accumulation of debts, a forged painting scam that lands him in prison, and finally a series of electroshock treatments that allow him to find some balance in life at last.
Between titillating tales of stripping for extra cash and excessive drug use, Behrman charts his experiences with therapists and a wide variety of prescription medications. No clear picture is presented of his attempts at counseling; there is much skipping around between therapists, from whom he manages to hide the extent of his difficulties. In his first experience with Prozac, he doubles his original dose "to speed up" and later fires his psychiatrist for "medicating him like an absolute lunatic." This tale alone makes his doctors come across as more sympathetic characters than Behrman might have intended. Like many confessional memoirs, Electroboy is a blunt tale that relies heavily on the shock value of his über-yuppie behavior, which ends up detracting from the potentially fascinating story of his illness. --Jill Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Personal accounts of mental illness can provide insight into the mind's complexities not only for the public but for specialists seeking better treatments for their patients. Freud's theory of paranoia, for example, was richly informed by his reading of Dr. Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness. But in Behrman's account, it's unclear whether the author's descriptions of his psychological struggles are intended to clarify his experience of illness or to exploit the sensationalistic aspects of his manic depression (drug binges, sexual escapades and treatment with electroshock therapy) for fun and profit. The crux of Behrman's narrative involves his work as the publicist for pop artist Mark Kostabi. After helping Kostabi achieve fame, Behrman, along with an artist in Kostabi's studio, conspired to make and sell "fake" Kostabis an endeavor that culminated in the author's arrest and conviction for conspiracy to defraud. Although Behrman never discusses the relationship between his crime and his mental illness, the reader can deduce that the fraud was tied to his long history of deeds demonstrating tension between a desire to be loved and a desire to be guilty and punished (Behrman also worked as a prostitute and amassed significant debts). His prose suffers from an abundance of clinical editorializations and attention to the superficial, like brands of clothing and beer. This last offense gives the text its exhibitionistic, gossip-column style, which muffles the obviously tortuous aspects of the author's bouts with manic euphoria and paralytic depression. The genuine and compelling aspects of Behrman's disorder become subservient to the unfortunate but undeniable pleasures of schadenfreude. Agent, Suzanne Gluck. (On-sale Feb. 19)
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