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Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania Paperback – February 11, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (February 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812967089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812967081
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 52 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on April 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ostensibly a book about one man's bout with manic depression, this memoir chronicles Behrman's dizzying journey from part-time male hustler / full-time white-collar professional to convicted felon for art forgery. This period of his life is filled with sexual confusion, financial worries, unrealizable ambitions, stunning successes, equally spectacular failures, compulsive shopping, substance abuse, frenzied traveling, selfish stunts, generous acts, and ridiculously long work hours.
And that's the problem with this book. Although Behrman describes the events leading up to his conviction and therapy, you never get a sense of how his behavior or his actions stem from his illness. I do not mean do imply that the author is not manic-depressive; rather he fails to convey how his experience is any different from your average Wall Street broker, celebrity, advertising director, crystal meth addict, bartender, alcoholic, or Enron executive--or, for that matter, just about any young male living in New York City. After finishing this book, I still have absolutely no idea what it's like to be manic-depressive.
Indeed, the book at time seems more an autobiography of addiction than "a memoir of mania." Although one psychologist suggests substance abuse is a common symptom of manic depression, it`s a marvel that no psychologist or psychiatrist, at least according to the author, speculates at any time that addiction may be the root of Behrman's problems. By his own account, he is continuously and excessively drinking, snorting cocaine, freebasing, and abusing the many prescriptions his doctors supply to him.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Maloney on April 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Electroboy: A Memoir of Madness is one man's story of his roller-coaster ride through the hell of manic-depressive illness. Fortunately, he seems to have made it to the other side intact enough to write about it. Many others never survive, even as long as Berhman has done, and succumb much earlier to the high fatality rate within this population of our mentally ill.

There is a certain irony in the frustrations expressed by many of the reviewers of Electroboy. They cite the book's disorganized and chaotic approach as its negatives. Yet, looking at this book from another perspective, what I believe Berhman has done remarkably well is to convey just how much his life was one lived in fear, uncontrolled energy and terrifying frenzy.

As I read the book, I found myself needing to put it down every so often just to catch my breath. This may be what caused so many reviewers to react negatively to Electroboy. Yet, my sense of this cyclonic story is that it actually conveys to its audience just a small flavor of the severe degree to which the individual suffering is just simply out of control! Yes, it is filled with alcohol, drugs, sex, bizarre world travel, and other seemingly reprehensible behavior! This is the 'stuff of the illness'

While some may choose to view Berhman's behavior as hedonistic or self centered or egotistical, these conclusions really speak to how little is widely known about manic-depressive illness and most other mental illnesses.Our society continues to hedge on its willingness to recognize mental illness as real.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Here is the itinerary for ELECTROBOY: Prologue, my relatively normal childhood, college, going insane in college, wasting lots of money out of college, some porn, attempts to produce an amateur film (which pans), therapy, job at Versace, meet male escorts, get job as stripper/hustler, move in with girlfriend, get job at sister's PR agency, some more therapy, more sex, and a job making deals for a prominent, industrial artist--Brace yourself, that's only the first 100 pages. From there on it is a wild ride describing Mr. Behrman's forgery schemes which make him a felon and send him to jail for five months, his diagnosis of manic-depression, the impulsivity which characterizes this disorder, and finally, after many attempts at medication, undergoing electroshock therapy, and then stabilization.
While the book itself was by no-means dull, I have numerous criticisms of it. First of all, there was very little information about bipolar disorder. In fact, the only factual information I can recall was about the four theories on how electroconvulsive therapy can treat mental disorders. I know Mr. Behrman wanted his memoir to be "cool" rather than dry and factual, but he could have worked some facts into the narrative. Second of all, I found myself dissatisfied with a completely sensationalized telling of Mr. Behrman's life. Roughly half the book is taken up with pornography and bizarre sexual situations. I don't mind explicit sex but there was so much of it and if I had wanted to read a book about a post-college student's freaky sex life, I would have picked one entitled just that. It seems like Mr. Behrman was trying to "hide" his story under the respectable guise of a psychological illness, when really, he just fills it with details of sex, drugs, parties, and spending binges.
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