'On the Road' to madness and back. Cured Meat: Memoirs of a pyschiatric runaway

Cured Meat: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Runaway - Polly Trope

I am a psychiatrist and therefore you’ll understand I would be interested in a book with such a title.  I didn’t expect what I got, though. This is an extraordinary book. Extraordinary both, in the sense of not your normal type of book (whatever that might be) and also because it is one of a kind and exceptional.

I’ve read some of the reviews comparing it to Sylvia Plath, Derek Jarman…I understand. This is a book that is told as a memoir, narrated in stream-of-consciousness, with poetic interludes and fragments that come slightly closer to a diary narrative, but vague, uninterested in places and times as such, and much more focused on sensations and feelings. The wandering nature of the narrative (we travel from Berlin, to London, New England, and back in and out again, and also travel inwards, into the inner bowels of the city, particularly London) reminded me of the Beat Generation, particularly On The Road. If Jack Kerouac’s book was so much more than a travel book, this is also a memoir of not only a person, but a place, a time, and extreme experiences.

The problems with mental health (or with the mental health services, although I’m not particularly familiar, other than what I’ve read and watched, with how they function in the US) of the protagonist, her difficulties with drugs, her fall into a bottomless pit of prostitution and drugs aren’t told as a news item or a call to action. Sometimes in the middle of the most abject experience or ugliness, there is such beauty in the language that it’s difficult to reconcile the content and the tone. But it is, after all, art.

Lyrical, full of brilliant lines, breath-taking description, but also harrowing passages, it is not a book for everybody, and it is not an easy read (both from the point of view of the language and of the emotional impact). But it is a very rewarding one for those who dare.

Here a brief example…

So here I am sitting before the pyre of an awful

past, a king in purple gown, a crown weighs me into my

throne, with golden fork and golden knife, and on the table

before me a high piled heap, the rusty pieces that on my

battles with the sea, when I was wielding my powers —my

 magic sword, yeah— those rusty pieces I saw along the

side, never knew what they were, the arms of dead dolls,

perhaps the tusks of a mammoth?

This is not a book for everybody, but if you like  a challenging read, that will make you think and will transport to places and experiences outside your comfort-zone, I recommend it to you. Be brave!