Excerpt from Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Girl, Interrupted

by Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted
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    Apr 1994, 168 pages

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He strutted back into the room, busy, pleased with himself.

"I've got a bed for you," he said. "It'll be a rest. Just for a couple of weeks, okay?" He sounded conciliatory, or pleading, and I was afraid.

"I'll go Friday," I said. It was Tuesday, maybe by Friday I wouldn't want to go.

He bore down on me with his belly. "No. You go now.

I thought this was unreasonable. "I have a lunch date," I said.

"Forget it," he said. "You aren't going to lunch. You're going to the hospital." He looked triumphant.

It was very quiet out in the suburbs before eight in the morning. And neither of us had anything more to say. I heard the taxi pulling up in the doctor's driveway.


He took me by the elbow - pinched me between his large stout fingers - and steered me outside. Keeping hold of my arm, he opened the back door of the taxi and pushed me in. His big head was in the backseat with me for a moment. Then he slammed the door shut.

The driver rolled his window down halfway.

"Where to?"

Coatless in the chilly morning, planted on his sturdy legs in his driveway, the doctor lifted one arm to point at me.

'Take her to McLean," he said, "and don't let her out till you get there."

I let my head fall back against the seat and shut my eyes. I was glad to be riding in a taxi instead of having to wait for the train.


Etiology

This person is (pick one):
1. on a perilous journey from which we can learn much when he or she returns,

2. possessed by (pick one):
a) the gods,
b) God (that is, a prophet),
c) some bad spirits, demons, or devils,
d) the Devil

3. a witch


Velocity vs. Viscosity

Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast.

I'm not talking about onset or duration. I mean the quality of the insanity, the day-to-day business of being nuts.

There are a lot of names: depression, catatonia, mania, anxiety, agitation. They don't tell you much.

The predominant quality of the slow form is viscosity.

Experience is thick. Perceptions are thickened and dulled. Time is slow, dripping slowly through the clogged filter of thickened perception. The body temperature is low. The pulse is sluggish. The immune system is half-asleep. The organism is torpid and brackish. Even the reflexes are diminished, as if the lower leg couldn't be bothered to jerk itself out of its stupor when the knee is tapped.

Viscosity occurs on a cellular level. And so does velocity.

In contrast to viscosity's cellular coma, velocity endows every platelet and muscle fiber with a mind of its own, a means of knowing and commenting on its own behavior. There is too much perception, and beyond the plethora of perceptions, a plethora of thoughts about the perceptions and about the fact of having perceptions. Digestion could kill you! What I mean is the unceasing awareness of the processes of digestion could exhaust you to death. And digestion is just an involuntary sideline to thinking, which is where the real trouble begins.

Take a thought - anything, it doesn't matter. I'm tired of sitting here in front of the nursing station: a perfectly reasonable thought. Here's what velocity does to it.

First, break down the sentence: I'm tired - well, are you really tired, exactly? Is that like sleepy? You have to check all your body parts for sleepiness, and while you're doing that, there's a bombardment of images of sleepiness, along these lines: head falling onto pillow, head hitting pillow, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, Little Nemo rubbing sleep from his eyes, a sea monster. Uh-oh, a sea monster. If you're lucky, you can avoid the sea monster and stick with sleepiness. Back to the pillow, memories of having mumps at age five, sensation of swollen cheeks on pillows and pain on salivation - stop. Go back to sleepiness.

Excerpted from Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Copyright© 1994 by Susanna Kaysen. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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