Member Reviews

I love Winchester's writing so it comes as no surprise that my only complaint about this book is that it is too short! I did not know about the author's struggles with mental illness and this was a very candid, somber portrayal about a difficult time in the author's life.

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Simon Winchester a brilliant author shares with us the time in his life when he suffered mental problems.A scary sad time to read about a raw look at what the author lived through.A brave book to write very interesting & informative to read.#netgalley #scribidbooks

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I have to admit that this is the first of Simon Winchester's writing I've read. But, it won't be the last.

Winchester takes the reader on a literal journey of the mind. He speaks to us about his mental breakdown and the subsequent efforts to reboot his brain. The writing isn't joyous, but it also isn't somber; it's just a sober account of what Winchester was feeling at that time in his life.

I like the fact that Scribd is entering into the market created by Amazon with Kindle Singles. In our short attention span age, it's writing like this that may lead to more people reading longer form works. I'm going to be on the lookout for any more titles in this series.

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Insightful, honest reflection…

I’ve enjoyed this author’s non-fiction books for years and was astonished by what I read here. I wasn’t surprised at the writing – it was engaging as always - but hearing his fears and revelations about his past experience with mental illness was an eye-opener. His frank retelling of a troubled time in his life and how it was handled, how it affected (even now), managed to be told in even these few pages. His shame in admitting to anyone he had a problem, the horror that his father may know and ridicule him, was painful in the simplicity of the telling. His struggle to describe what happened wasn’t in a lack of vocabulary (he has no trouble there for sure) but in finding the right words.

A very short, relatable, personal glimpse into this well-known author's life...

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Simon Winchester is very honest about a part of his life that he has never publicly talked about. His early struggles with mental health issues and how it was dealt with are very interesting. The stories he tells about discovering the issues are intriguing too. The book is also very well written. I wish it had more details about what it was like when he was done with his treatment and his subsequent divorce. Highly suggest reading the Man with the Electrified Brain!

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What a fascinating, horrifying journey into one man's head - and an illustrious head at that! Simon Winchester's biographical essay about his experiences trapped inside his own brain was an interesting read - and this is the second time I've read it. I really enjoyed the new foreward, tying the existential angst he experienced as a young man to that experienced by so many in these unusual times. He really has a marvelous ability to tell stories - his own and those of other people/events - and if you aren't familiar with his work, you really should give him a try!

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This was a quicker read than I was expecting, and could definitely have been expanded upon. The writing style was kind of bizarre. It read like a book at least 100 years older than it was. Like reading Poe or perhaps a little later in Shirley Jackson. You don't expect that sort of narrative style in a contemporary memoir.

I felt detached from the whole story, both by the language and by the lack of details. Which was a shame, because otherwise it would be interesting to read a first person account of electroconvulsive therapy that apparently worked. This could have been fleshed out so much more both from a personal and a medical/scientific standpoint.

It also made me less inclined to try reading The Professor and the Madman. If that is also written in this style and so lacking in detail.

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Simon Winchester awakens one morning while at Oxford and suddenly everything around him seems threatening ... nothing has changed ... but everything is different. Everything from his housecoat, to painting and books, was terrifying. All of this happens about two weeks before he's to set off on an expedition to the Arctic.

After 9 days of suffering in a world of his own... the "fog" lifted. The expedition began without a hitch. He was suffering from strange compulsions - dangerous ones int he arctic, and retreated within himself. He speculates that it was the intense physical labor of the expedition that kept him from focussing too much on his own state. The pattern continued and Winchester began the process of understanding what was going on.

There are pills, doctors, things that don't work, side effects, and no progress for four years. When he found himself attempting suicide and leaving his job the healing began.  He met a doctor on a house call to see his Aunt... and he suspected he knew what was wrong. This meeting leads to Winchester getting electroconvulsive therapy. After six weeks of therapy... Winchester's life was returned to him. He was cured.

He didn't write about his mental health challenges and the subsequent treatment for many years. In part, he says, due to the thoughts/ concerns of his parents. It wasn't until he was researching years later for a book he was writing that he picked up a copy of the DSM-IV and discovered that a diagnosis of dissociative disorder matched his symptoms perfectly.

There's some discussion in this book about the validity of the DSM-IV and the like as tools for diagnosis, the stigma of living with mental illness, fear of relapse and both sides of the argument regarding ECT.

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The Man With The Electrified Brain is a very short reminiscence by Simon Winchester. Unbeknownst to all but a small cadre, he suffered from a mental condition in his early 20s. He describes the episodes and how they changed his actions and attitudes over a period of years. And the anxiety of wondering if it would come again – every time he woke up. He was able to perceive how his behavior was incredibly wrong, and how, semi-fortunately, the condition caused him to sleep an enormous amount, saving him from further anguish, fear, hallucination and embarrassment.

This is another in a series of very short books from@scribd, so it is not available elsewhere.

It is a small window into a huge field where enormous suffering takes place, often for unknown reasons and with limited tools to cure. By sheer happenstance, Winchester was visiting his aunt when her doctor came by, and without any conversation, knew that Winchester must be suffering from a condition that was known but had no firm name. He told Winchester he could deal with it and within an hour he was hauled off to a mental institution with a horrific record. They gave him six shock treatments over two weeks, each less severe than the previous, and despite the massive headaches immediately afterward, the veil lifted, and he has never looked back. Well, he’s looked back, but he’s never had another episode. He is one of the fortunate ones.

The book is remarkably intense for its short length, and comes to no real conclusion about mental illness, treatments or doctors. Every doctor he saw was correct in what he prescribed, from pills to electroshocks. That not everything worked is normal. That the condition falls into more than one bucket is normal. That no one knows how or why electroshock works (when it does), is also normal.

Nonetheless, it is a remarkable story, and stories count, big time.

David Wineberg

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