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The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia Paperback – March 10, 2015
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“If bad things are going to happen, we are lucky when they happen to someone with the wit, humanity and sweetness — to say nothing of an eye for detail and a gift for pacing — that MacLean brings to this wrenching tale . . . Readers who flip open the book will find MacLean, preserved between pages, goofy and serious, lost and found.” — Chicago Tribune
“A deeply moving account of amnesia that explores the quandary of the self . . . MacLean has written a memoir that combines the evocative power of William Styron’s Darkness Visible, the lyric subtlety of Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family, and the narrative immediacy of a Hollywood action film. He reminds us how we are all always trying to find a version of ourselves that we can live with.” — Los Angeles Times
“[MacLean] writes eloquently about the bizarre and disturbing experience of having his sense of self erased and then reconstructed from scratch.” — The New Yorker
“As harrowing as this territory is, MacLean makes an affable, sure-footed guide . . . Thanks to his raw, honest, and beautiful memoir, readers will already have a clear idea what his experience was like. We can be grateful MacLean has remembered so much, and so well.” — New York Times
“[A] vivid reflection on the ten years following the Lariam-induced break with reality and the memory problems that persisted in its wake . . . One author, a writer by trade, tells his story because it is a good one: dramatic and unique. The other tells a story, no less arresting, because she has a point to make. Both succeed impressively.” — New York Times Book Review
“Written in terse, vivid prose spiked with blackouts and violent hallucinations reminiscent of a Ken Kesey classic, MacLean’s story of the yearlong quest to regain his life reads like fiction, and reminds us that while memories may be painful, truth is all too often elusive.” — Mother Jones
“Incandescent . . . MacLean’s account is raw and unsparing, and will surely take you out of your comfort zone — the reader is immersed in the writer’s oblivion and his vertiginous journey of recovery — but the reward for sticking with it is the privilege of reading MacLean’s profound and finely nuanced meditation on memory and identity.” — Seattle Times
“MacLean fearlessly explores his journey to the edge of madness and his subsequent return to sanity in an unsettling, sometimes riotous, memoir.” — Publishers Weekly
“Mesmerizing.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Riveting, sad, and funny . . . Both a sharply written autobiography and an insightful meditation on how much our memories define our identities.” — Booklist
“A gripping medical mystery, a heartwarming personal journey, and a chilling indictment of the commonly prescribed drug that upended MacLean’s life — but left his superb literary skills intact.” — Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“A mesmerizing, unsettling memoir about the ever-echoing nature of identity, written in vivid, blooming detail.” — Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
From the Back Cover
On October 17, 2002, David MacLean woke up on a train platform in India with no idea who he was or why he was there. No money. No passport. No identity.
Taken to a mental hospital by the police, MacLean then started to hallucinate so severely he had to be tied down. He could remember song lyrics, but not his family, his friends, or the woman he was told he loved. His illness, it turned out, was the result of the commonly prescribed antimalarial medication he had been taking. Upon his return to the United States, he struggled to piece together the fragments of his former life in a harrowing, absurd, and unforgettable journey back to himself.
[MacLean] is an exceedingly entertaining psychotic . . . [A] raw, honest and beautiful memoir.New York Times
A deeply moving account of amnesia that explores the quandary of the self . . . MacLean has written a memoir that combines the evocative power of William Styrons Darkness Visible, the lyric subtlety of Michael Ondaatjes Running in the Family and the narrative immediacy of a Hollywood action film. He reminds us how we are all always trying to find a version of ourselves that we can live with.Los Angeles Times
[AU PHOTO] DAVID STUART MACLEAN is a PEN/American Awardwinning writer. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Ploughshares, and on the radio program This American Life. He has a PhD from the University of Houston and is a cofounder of the Poison Pen Reading Series.
Top customer reviews
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The remaining three quarters of the book goes downhill. It lacks the immediacy and clarity to hold the reader's attention, and meanders off into various complaints and repetitions and you find yourself not caring for this character that you DID care for strongly in the beginning.
Perhaps the current version has been padded out from what was originally a shorter story (it appeared as a paperback in 2012 and as part of a radio program in 2010) to make it "book-length". The inclusion of product names in the text is much more in evidence as the book progresses.
If you buy this book and just read up to the point where he leaves India, you will have had an excellent reading experience, one that stays with you viscerally and changes your perspective on life. The rest is definitely optional. Maybe use the time to go for a walk and appreciate that you DO have memories of your life.
First 1/3 to half was great. I was really hooked and started recommending to everyone around me.
The last 1/3 let me down though. Struggled to get to the finished, just hoping it would end.
This is great for the questions it asked and tried to answer. A theme of questioning yourself is always a good theme. Just poorly executed at the end.
The authors journey back from the brink of madness is sad, funny, frustrating but ultimately gratifying. I do remain somewhat skeptical of his unexplained transition from a heavy drinking, heavy smoking, pill popping wreck, to happy, healthy author person.
The medical exposé is disturbing and compelling. The anti-malaria drug Larium is the catalyst for the authors amnesia and long term mental illness. An exploration of the drug and its history of severe side effects, including amnesia is extremely disturbing. Its aggressive use by the US military, its testing in US prisons -including Guantanamo Bay is disturbing and will keep conspiracy theorists busy for many years.
The examination of memory, self and identity was vexing and intriguing. How much the you is just a compilation of memories? What makes us who we are? It was fascinating to ponder that question as the protagonist tries to recreate his life and identity.
MacLean’s writing is engaging and compelling and certainly conveys the frustrations, fear and pain of his experience. A gutsy and disquieting account.
This is worth reading.
Most recent customer reviews
Overall, a great read!