Rethinking the Literature of Schizophrenia


Ask anyone to imagine a person with schizophrenia and they’ll picture a homeless man wandering the streets yelling at passersby, spittle flying, or a violent Malcom Tate-type, convinced that his niece is possessed by the devil. These are the images that linger in common imaginations. They haunt psyches and distort the experiences of the afflicted. Contrary to popular belief, people with schizophrenia are often not violent. They do hear voices, but with medication, people with schizophrenia can and do live fulfilling, even exceptional lives. Take Lori Schiller (The Quiet Room), deemed a disaster, never to recover—she ends up working in the mental health field. Take Elyn Saks (The Center Cannot Hold), now a law school professor and Esmé Weijun Wang (The Collected), a critically acclaimed creative writer. However, some are not as lucky. Marin Sardy (The Edge of Every Day) describes her brother’s suicide in poignant detail. Ron Powers, author of No One Cares About Crazy People, explains that his son, Kevin, suffered the same fate. In writing this article, I didn’t want to paint the devastation of schizophrenia with a rosy gloss—people with schizophrenia do kill themselves, commit murder, end up homeless—rather, I wanted to give a well-rounded portrait of what the disease can look like. Even in Sardy’s and Powers’ texts, where their loved ones don’t survive their illnesses, the authors describe their relatives as three-dimensional beings: people with kindness, talents, experiences and successes apart from their illnesses, things we forget to think about when we think about people with schizophrenia.

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VCO: Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

She turns the camera on.

Having had a part in some of the new looming FMCA updates, we wanted to cover our bases on likely changes of procedure in the future instead of having to do them retroactively. 

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Art, Ritual, and Life: An Interview With C. Bain

"Sex Augury"

Augury once referred only to the form of divination that read birds, futures read from the types and flight and behavior of birds. It was a kind of literacy. Now augury means future-telling in general. Of course, the thing about the future is that we know, broadly, what is happening. The circulation of the Atlantic ocean nears a tipping point where the currents will stop, wildfires in California, in Turkey, heatwaves in south Asia. It’s pretty clear what’s happening. So telling the future is an obsolescing industry, and as such, poetry can get in there. SEX AUGURY (Red Hen Press, 2023) is the second book of poetry by writer and performance artist C. Bain, applying a mystical literacy to the saturation of image, violence, and erotic alienation we are surrounded with, and infiltrated by. Just before the launch of SEX AUGURY, C. began a Fulbright fellowship in Leipzig, rendering the book launch a bit muted. On the belated occasion of the book, Rosemary Carroll, a colleague of C.’s through the brotherhood of negative prophesy, interviewed C. about the book and creative process.

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“Battle Hymn”: An Excerpt From Willie Davis’s “I Can Outdance Jesus”

"I Can Outdance Jesus"

Today, we’re pleased to present an excerpt from Willie Davis’s new collection I Can Outdance Jesus. Cara Blue Adams had this to say of the book: “Davis writes about the South, and especially rural Kentucky, in an unflinching way that weaves together humor and the darknesses of poverty, violence, addiction, and despair.” Read on for a glimpse inside Davis’s take on music, religion, and life.

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Journey Into the Self: On Vincent Czyz’s “Sun Eye Moon Eye”

"Sun Eye Moon Eye"

Vincent Czyz’s novel Sun Eye Moon Eye traces the post-genocidal, and by extension post-apocalyptic, journey of Logan Blackfeather, a Hopi “of mixed descent.” On the surface, Logan’s story revolves around coming to terms with his father’s death; the suicide of the abusive uncle who replaced him (as titular father only); the knifing of a racist truck driver for which he is sent to prison and then a psychiatric facility; and his slow reemergence into the world via the therapeutic trinity of love—his relationship with Shawna, a woman he meets on the lam in Manhattan—art—his return to composing the music he’d given up on in the midst of trauma—and ethnic reconciliation—reclaiming his heritage from the legacy of colonialism and settlement. On a deeper level, Logan’s journey is really about his dwelling along the margin of where the waking world—one of broken families, addiction, poverty, deracination, violence—meets an animist dreamscape—southwestern geography fused to a Hopi mythography.

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VCO: Chapter 19

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Chapter 19

The cabin was no bigger than a two-bedroom cube from the outside. 

Morgen knocked on the door, cleared her throat, and the door opened itself.

Once inside I started feeling ill. The interior of the cabin extended many directions much farther than the exterior led on. From the outside it looked like a shack, but we were inside a mansion with multiple levels. 

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Books of the Month: May 2024

May 2024 Books

It’s a few days into a new month, and you can probably tell what’s next: we have some May books we’d like to recommend. Stylistically, they cover a lot of terrain; you’ll find everything from experimental short fiction to haunting meditations of contemporary politics here. Read on for some suggestions for the weeks to come.

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VCO: Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

Last weekend; Friday after lunch.

Morgen walked ahead with her gun barrel aiming at the ground while scanning the horizon and sweeping the tall grass with a killer’s intensity. All morning I’d been worrying how to operate this gun. I’ve never held or used one before. It seemed pretty simple. You pump it. You point it. You make something explode like a nanoscopic Big Bang Event.

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