The Loony-Bin Trip

Kate Millett, Author
Kate Millett, Author Simon & Schuster $19.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-67930-9
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
Although long since diagnosed as manic depressive, Millett ( Sexual Politics ) in 1980 determined to discontinue her lithium medication. Prolix and digressive, fractured and brave, this memoir tracks the radical feminist's degenerative mental state. At her farm in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., her mania alienates her lover and sows discontent in the fledgling lesbian artists colony that resides there. Alongside radiant descriptions of physical labor in a natural environment are the squabbles of the artists and Millet's rhapsody on genitals--a horse's, which she fondles, and her father's--plus journal excerpts of one of the disillusioned artists. Her relatives and friends fail in attempts to commit her to a Manhattan institution; they succeed in Ireland for a time. The book masterfully conjures the ecstasy of mania, the despair of depression, and the anguish and shame of a hunted, paranoid, impotent person who is mentally ill. But Millett's identification with Joan of Arc and Irish political prisoners is unconvincing, as is her indictment of what she sees as the collusion of the mental health establishment and family in abrogating the civil rights of the mentally ill. (May)
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