Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love (英語) ペーパーバック – 2018/9/18
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Zack McDermott, a 26-year-old Brooklyn public defender, woke up one morning convinced he was being filmed, Truman Show-style, as part of an audition for a TV pilot. Every passerby was an actor; every car would magically stop for him; everything he saw was a cue from "The Producer" to help inspire the performance of a lifetime. After a manic spree around Manhattan, Zack, who is bipolar, was arrested on a subway platform and admitted to Bellevue Hospital.
So begins the story of Zack's freefall into psychosis and his desperate, poignant, often hilarious struggle to claw his way back to sanity. It's a journey that will take him from New York City back to his Kansas roots and to the one person who might be able to save him, his tough, big-hearted Midwestern mother, nicknamed the Bird, whose fierce and steadfast love is the light in Zack's dark world.
Before his odyssey is over, Zack will be tackled by guards in mental wards, run naked through cornfields, receive secret messages from the TV, befriend a former Navy Seal and his talking stuffed monkey, and see the Virgin Mary in the whorls of his own back hair. But with the Bird's help, he just might have a shot at pulling through, starting over, and maybe even meeting a partner who can love him back, bipolar and all.
Introducing an electrifying new voice, GORILLA AND THE BIRD is a raw and unforgettable account of a young man's unraveling and the relationship that saves him.
"A funny, finely observed and surprisingly touching depiction of what it feels like to lose your mind. By allowing us to witness his lowest and most delusional moments, and the slow and tentative process of returning to the world, Zack McDermott provides a gripping portrait of a very real human battle too often ignored and misunderstood. I am better for reading this book."―Sarah Hepola, New York Times bestselling author of Blackout
"Zack McDermott's portrait of a mind under assault from bi-polar illness is both fascinating and heart-breaking to observe, and he takes us into his experience with riveting intensity. But McDermott's real achievement is capturing the moving determination and steadfast love of the mother who saves him, the remarkable Bird who breaks the loneliness, quiets the fear and gives him a home worth returning to. I was so moved by this book and these people."―George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville
"A poignant memoir...[McDermott's] book asks us to destigmatize mental illness by familiarizing us intimately with the issue."―Los Angeles Review of Books
"McDermott brings a vivid and unsettling degree of intimacy to his descriptions of mania's onset. . . His work as a public defender grows out of a deep sense of empathy for the stigmatized and marginalized that's evident on every page. He uses that empathy to construct a deeply compassionate portrait of his mother - a resilient woman whose love helps ground him in the real, even in moments when his reality is at its most friable."―NPR.org
"A startlingly moving memoir of mother and son, structural injustice and inflammable mental illness. Gorilla and the Bird is as piss-cuttin' a pieta as anyone has any right to hope for. And Zack McDermott -- guy's a fleet, funny, unsentimental storyteller who manages that rare thing: He allows a damaged soul be found."―Kent Russell, author of I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son
"A captivating and witty memoir about a young lawyer's gut-wrenching struggle with mental illness and the fierce, protective love of his remarkable mother and dedicated friends, Zack McDermott's Gorilla and the Bird is not only a deeply powerful reminder of our own vulnerability, but a truly inspirational testament to the strength of the human spirit. This book makes accessible experiences that some may wish to ignore but that urgently require our attention, acceptance and empathy."―Elizabeth Ford, M.D., author of Sometimes Amazing Things Happen
"Gorilla and the Bird will make you laugh, cry, and wonder what would happen if we were all brave enough to tell the stories of our relationships with love and madness. I needed this book."― Kiese Laymon, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
"A tale of madness, self-destruction, and the stalwart presence of a family...McDermott's memoir is decidedly offbeat, unfolding like a country song. There's the law, some good jokes, substance abuse, and love lost and found, but there's also a keenly felt sense of justice for the people who can't catch a break in this world, 'the dregs, the castoffs, the addicts'...If the Joads were tanked up on Bud Light and Haldol and Steinbeck were under Hunter S. Thompson's influence, this might be the result-rueful, funny, and utterly authentic."―Kirkus Reviews
"A remarkably written (and lived) memoir about hard beginnings, bad genes, delusions of grandeur, and epic mother love...holds us rapt."―Huffington Post
"[A] poignant and powerful debut...an important resource for anyone impacted by the scope of bipolar disorder, as well as those who want to learn more about it."―The Rumpus
I have lived through a dozen of these experiences since 1976. Now, through "Gorilla and the Bird," I got to live through another one, without the restraints and felony charges. Mr. McDermott's story is simply the most intense, accurate, and emotionally honest trek through Mania (and out the other side) I have ever read, and the biggest bonus -- not to mention saving grace -- is the awesome power of his mother's love.
A less capable writer would have been unable to craft this narrative in a way that strings together all the elements without a hint of self-pity or resentment. His superior writing brims with humor and irony, and anyone, regardless of how close or far away you are from Mania, will be able to experience it through his eyes and heart.
I finished "Gorilla and the Bird" in less than two days, but I know I will return to it often.
For me, a black female public defender from NYC, the most enlightening aspect of the book was learning about the perspective of impoverished white people in middle America. I had no idea. I was appalled by some, sympathetic to others, and rooting for the author to "win" and make it out.
I think the love shared between the author and his mother is admirable and the epitome of unconditional love. I enjoyed seeing it play out on paper as a reminder that those who suffer from mental illness are human, are worthy of love, and should not be thrown away. This. ultimately, was what I took away from this book and I hope that others will read it and gain some insight and understanding and maybe even turn to advocacy.
1. While I have read many books that describe mania / bipolar - the author describes his journey to understanding mania / vs. depression - vs. "stable" so clearly that during the first period of mania - I believed it was real - no mania or psychotic break. As the book (and Zach's understanding) of the condition progresses - Zack and the reader begin to be able to sense signs of manic episodes coming on. Long story short - his journey to understanding and learning to manage / live with this illness was so clearly spelled out.
2. The relationship between Zack and his mother is so incredibly heart warming - and while much focuses on her helping him through this - there was just as much about him being there for her. If everyone in the world have just 1 person to support them such as this - what a place this would be.
3. The amount of courage it took for both Zack and his mom to "bare all" in this book is noteworthy - and will help / encourage any reader.
As a nation (world) we need to start to look at mental illness / disorders as the completely manageable conditions that they are. Health care needs to be enhanced to offer the best service and options to people who - with this help - will be able to lead normal lives even if faced with conditions such as bi-polar disorder.
Please read this book!
All in all, the mental illness system is a mess. Wasn't it Reagan who emptied out or deinstitutionalized psychiatric hospitals and developmental centers for the mentally retarded with the promise of local community, mental health centers and group homes? Now jails and prisons and the streets have taken the place of that promise. A shameful legacy!
Zach is doing well. It's good that he has a plan, knows his plan, and can tell when "it's coming on". He has hope.