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Mount Misery Paperback – July 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Anyone who has read Samuel Shem's previous novel, The House of God, will be familiar with Dr. Roy Basch, the protagonist of Mount Misery. When last seen, Dr. Basch was completing a grueling residency; Mount Misery finds him beginning his psychiatric training at an upscale New England mental hospital. His introduction to the myriad forms of therapy available today--everything from Freudian psychoanalysis to psychopharmacology--provides Mr. Shem with plenty of blackly humorous grist for his mill. In this hospital, apparently, you need a score card to tell the doctors from the patients.

Shem (the pseudonym of psychiatrist and playwright Dr. Stephen Bergman) delights in broad parody. He creates, for example, characters such as Dr. Heiler who gives lectures entitled "Borderline Germans and German Borderlines," or Dr. A. K. Lowell, whose devotion to Freudian analysis is so extreme that she refuses to speak to patients at all. Though the humor can be clumsy at times, Shem makes some serious points about the perils of psychotherapy in which the therapist is not above reproach. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

YA. Roy Basch, protagonist of House of God (Dell, 1981), has survived his internship and now begins his three-year training at the aptly named Mount Misery, a posh New England psychiatric hospital. Things get off to an ominous start when his mentor, a renowned therapist in the field of depressive disorders, kills himself. This is just the beginning of a year filled with disaster. Employing gallows humor, Basch and his fellow residents confront bureaucratic nonsense in a manner reminiscent of Richard Hooker's MASH. The tone then becomes more like that of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as patients are assaulted by the cruel words and manipulations of the powerful attendings. Shem's novel confronts some powerful themes?sexual abuse, psychosis, greed, depression, suicide?and counters them with examples of the very best the human spirit has to offer. The field of psychiatry is unflinchingly held under a microscope and its failings, limitations, and successes are relentlessly catalogued. With such ferocious intensity, this lengthy novel will not appeal to all teens, but those who persevere will find that Mount Misery's "Laws" and characters will live on in their imaginations for some time to come.?Carol DeAngelo, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034546334X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345463340
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Samuel Shem (pen name of Stephen Bergman) is a novelist, playwright, and, for three decades, a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty. His novels include The House of God, Fine, and Mount Misery. He is coauthor with his wife, Janet Surrey, of the hit Off-Broadway play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (winner of the 2007 Performing Arts Award of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), and We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men. Editors Carol Donley and Martin Kohn are cofounders of the Center for Literature, Medicine, and Biomedical Humanities at Hiram College. Since 1990 the Center has brought humanities and the health care professions together in mutually enriching interactions, including interdisciplinary courses, summer symposia, and the Literature and Medicine book series from The Kent State University Press. The first three anthologies in the series grew out of courses in the Biomedical Humanities program at Hiram. Then the series expanded to include original writing and edited collections by physicians, nurses, humanities scholars, and artists. The books in the series are designed to serve as resources and texts for health care education as well as for the general public.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Sleepyhollow on September 9, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In sharp contrast to this books older and more famous brother "The house of God" this one is much less hilarious and much more thought provoking and disturbing. Dr Baschs catastrophic and nearly fatal first year of residency in a prestigious psychiatric institute is depicted in all its gloomy details. The characters in this book are quite extreme each in its own positive or negative way and shems witty and clever description of them (even for the better ones) is merciless. a word of warning - don't get to attached to any of the characters, Shem has a tendency to eliminate some of them in various stages of the book. I am a medical student, and I first read this book In my first year after reading the "House of God" - it was mildly amusing. However, I reread it this year (my fifth) after doing my rotation in a psychiatric hospital and this book is right on target. It made me think very hard about the patients, the doctors and all that's in between. A must book for everyone who is interested in medicine, psychiatry or just plain human nature.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Karen Franklin on January 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mount Misery starts out as a great parody of psychiatry's excesses, from drug-pushing to diagnostic mania to Freudian psychoanalysis. First-year resident Roy Basch gets multiple doses of brainwashing as he makes the rounds of Mount Misery, with each theoretical school working overtime to indoctrinate him into its orthodoxy. The caricatures are over-the-top hilarious as Basch, like a military boot camp inductee, falls deeper and deeper, becoming all the while more miserable. Until...

... we hit page 439 and it's like Shem (the pseudonym of author-psychiatrist Stephen Bergman) switched personalities, or another author took over the writing. No more Joseph Heller-style social parody, no more witty insights into psychiatric destructiveness masquerading as treatment (such as the keen observations on psychoanalytic use of silence as a weapon). Basch's epiphany consists of a trite, 12-steppish philosophy that eschews formal theory in favor of being in the present ("breathe," his mentor repeatedly tells him) and connecting with others' suffering. Hardly new concepts, these form the backbone of many theories of psychological treatment. And I would vehemently argue with Shem's simplistic claim that the only purpose of psychiatric theory is to create distance between "expert" and patient; for just one contemporary example of a psychiatrist's use of theory to inform humane treatment (of severely traumatized children, in this case), check out Bruce Perry's The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook Child Psychiatrist's Notebook--What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Shem's new book is not what I expected. What I basically thought I'd get was a mere follow up to "The House of God", his 15 year old outstanding novel about medicine and internships. Mount Misery describes one year of residency training in a psychiatric hospital. While not remotely as funny as "House of God" this piece of work is more mature and goes much deeper. Shem doesn't leave too much good on psychoanalysis and Freud. This book really got to me and will keep me thinking for a while. Another masterpiece of medical novels
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
~ ~ * * * * * ~ ~
~ ~ As an MD who spent lots of time in 3rd and 4th year doing clerkships studying Psychiatry, at about the time this novel takes place, I have to admit it is an entertaining and frighteningly accurate illustration of the confusion that reigned in most Psychiatry training programs in the 70's and 80's.
~ ~Readers of "House of God" will enjoy this semi-autobiographical story. It is continuation of the story of the young doctor who spent a disillusioning year in a medical Internship in a prominent Boston training hospital, took a year off, and decided to leave the physical Medicine for Psychiatry.
~ ~Friends who have worked "M. Hospital" the prominent mental hospital (outside Boston), that Mount Misery is clearly modeled after, tell me that the characters in the book are also very thinly disguised versions of real life prominent Doctors in the training program.
~ ~It's not necessary to have much medical knowledge to enjoy the cutting humor of the book. The story will probably be more entertaining, the more knowledge you have of the field of Psychology. Be prepared though, this book isn't one you want to read to give you confidence in your Psychiatrist!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 13, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I eagerly anticipated this sequel. Unfortunately it is merely a formulaic attempt to duplicate the original in a different setting. Roy Bash is to goes through the same ups and downs, corrupting cynical attitudes, and, finally, redemtion. The "mentor" figure is a duplicate of the HOG's "fatman". It is as if Roy didn't learn anything at the HOG, thus we are sentenced to watch him live through the exact same story again. When will the cycle end? I stopped reading this book when it became clear that it was going to harm my relationship with the original. Good-twin vs bad-twin syndrome?
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