On Writing, Unhinged, The Fellowship of the Ring, Crazy Like Us

I haven’t been reading as much this month due to NaNoWriMo, but I have finally finished another stack. Woo!

Stephen King, On Writing
I reread this in the leadup to NaNoWriMo, hoping to be inspired, since I couldn’t get ahold of the NaNo book in time. Alas, I seemed to like this book much more the last time I read it. Possibly because I’ve discovered the problems with seat-of-the-pants writing, namely that it leads to long, convoluted drafts with lots of confusion. (Like, say, recent Stephen King novels.) Oh, well.

Daniel J. Carlat, Unhinged
Carlat is a psychiatrist, writing about the problems with psychiatry as a field — namely that it’s extremely vulnerable to manipulation by pharmaceutical companies, largely because it’s the field of medicine with the least tangible research to back it up with, so anybody who suggests that they have a Real Medical Solution to a problem, as opposed to just talking about feelings and stuff.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
In fact I read this out loud to my roommate, who had never read Lord of the Rings before, in order to expand her cultural education. And then, two chapters into The Two Towers, it turns out she’s never read The Hobbit either. So now we’re back in Thranduil’s palace, and soon we shall get caught up again.

Ethan Watters, Crazy Like Us
I wanted this book to be so much longer, but alas it was only three substantial case studies. Excellent case studies, though. Watters is examining the principles of cross-cultural psychology: the fact that, no matter what Western psychiatry may think, all human psychologies are not the same. He discusses the spread of Western-style anorexia in Hong Kong, the dangers of PTSD counseling in Indonesia, and the marketing of depression in Japan in the 1990s. Note 11/24/10 – the author dropped by to remind me that I’m forgetting the fourth case study, on schizophrenia in Zanzibar. end edit If this book had any flaws, it was in a certain amount of essentializing the cultures he discussed. He tends to talk about Western culture as though there’s a consensus about what mental illness is and how it should be treated, which isn’t true (as anyone living with a mental illness in Western culture can tell you), so I’d probably take any other broad statements about cultural attitudes with a grain of salt, too. But the discussion of how mental illnesses come into and out of existence was fascinating, and extremely thought-provoking.

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About Jen Moore

I'm a recent library school graduate in Madison, Wisconsin, looking for a full-time professional job and trying to manage a fulfilling life in the meantime. Oh, and I read. A lot.

Posted on November 23, 2010, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you for your comments on the book. My only correction would be that the book is comprised of four case studies. Your central critique that I present “western” as monolithic is well taken. I’m sure I drove anthropologists crazy making that sort of generalization. Thank you for the kind comments. Ethan.

    • Hey, thanks for dropping by! And thank you for reminding me; I completely forgot about the schizophrenia chapter somehow. This is what I get for writing the review after I’ve already returned the book to the library.

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