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Rhythm Method

Jenny Diski, 22 September 1994

R.D. LaingA Biography 
by Adrian Laing.
Peter Owen, 248 pp., £25, August 1994, 0 7206 0934 8
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... physically distressed patients said about the nature of the symptoms. In the early Sixties, R.D. Laing and others began to define psychosis in terms of its relation to society, and psychotics as individuals who in their own way were making sense of their social circumstances. The mad might be alienated, but they were not aliens, and therefore their doctors ...

Two Ronnies

Peter Barham, 4 July 1985

Wisdom, Madness and Folly: The Making of a Psychiatrist 
by R.D. Laing.
Macmillan, 147 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 333 37075 9
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... schizophrenics. Within this difficult, and often bewildering, territory the voice of Dr R.D. Laing has been heard – and in equal measure celebrated and scorned – for more than a quarter of a century. The historical sensibility of Western psychiatry, particularly in its British manifestation, has been very limited and that ...

Rubbing Shoulders with Unreason

Peter Barham: Foucault's History of Madness, 8 March 2007

History of Madness 
by Michel Foucault, edited by Jean Khalfa, translated by Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa.
Routledge, 725 pp., £35, April 2006, 0 415 27701 9
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... in 1960 and 1961: Michel Foucault’s Folie et déraison, Erving Goffman’s Asylums and R.D. Laing’s Divided Self, which, along with Thomas Szasz’s The Myth of Mental Illness, also published in 1961, were set to become iconoclastic classics. There is a revealing passage in History of Madness in which Foucault proposes that ‘the knowledge of madness ...

Madness and Method

Mark Philp, 3 April 1986

The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry Vol. I: People and Ideas, Vol. II: Institutions and Society 
edited by W.F. Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael Shepherd.
Tavistock, 316 pp., £19.95, November 1985, 0 422 79430 9
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Madness, Morality and Medicine: A Study of the York Retreat 1796-1914 
by Anne Digby.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £27.50, October 1985, 0 521 26067 1
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... over the last twenty or thirty years. The works of Foucault, Erving Goffman, Thomas Szasz and R.D. Laing, and more recently the contributions of Andrew Scull and a new generation of historians, have made it impossible to accept the Whig view of psychiatry’s history. Yet, if these writers have managed to convince historians that work in the subject must take ...

Honours for Craziness

Frank Cioffi, 17 June 1982

Psycho Politics 
by Peter Sedgwick.
Pluto, 292 pp., £4.95, January 1982, 0 86104 352 9
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The Voice of Experience 
by R.D. Laing.
Allen Lane, 178 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 7139 1330 4
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... us an informative, penetrating, witty and critical account of anti-psychiatry as represented by Laing, Szasz, Goffman and Foucault. The central ambition of anti-psychiatry has been to replace the so-called medical model of mental illness by a ‘labelling’ one, according to which the behaviours which provoked diagnoses of psychopathology were not ...

Think of Mrs Darling

Jenny Diski: Erving Goffman, 4 March 2004

Goffman's Legacy 
edited by Javier Treviño.
Rowman and Littlefield, 294 pp., £22.95, August 2003, 0 7425 1978 3
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... course on gathering information and ideas about the world. Month by month, titles came out by Laing and Esterson, Willmott and Young, J.K. Galbraith, Maynard Smith, Martin Gardner, Richard Leakey, Margaret Mead; psychoanalysts, sociologists, economists, mathematicians, historians, physicists, biologists and literary critics, each offering their latest ...


Jeremy Harding: Syd Barrett, 2 January 2003

Madcap: The Half-Life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s Lost Genius 
by Tim Willis.
Short Books, 175 pp., £12.99, October 2002, 1 904095 24 0
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... Waters tells Willis that some time in 1968, maybe, he drove Barrett to an appointment with R.D. Laing. When he parked the car, Barrett wisely refused to get out. There was a later attempt to get him an audience with the master, but this time Barrett wouldn’t even leave the flat in South Kensington. In 1970, there were two poignant solo albums, The Madcap ...

In place of fairies

Simon Schaffer, 2 December 1982

Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic 
by Daniel O’Keefe.
Martin Robertson, 581 pp., £17.50, September 1982, 0 85520 486 9
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Scienze, Credenze Occulti, Livelli di Cultura 
edited by Paola Zambelli.
Leo Olschki, 562 pp., April 1982, 88 222 3069 8
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... authority over those who were susceptible to this magic. More recently, modern gurus like R.D. Laing explicitly followed the arguments and even the language of the early sages. Renaissance magi wrote of their ability to ‘show the straight road to the eternal kingdom’ and to command ‘the celestial doctor that he may liberate us with ethics and ...

Haunted by Kindnesses

Michael Wood: The Project of Sanity, 21 April 2005

Going Sane 
by Adam Phillips.
Hamish Hamilton, 245 pp., £14.99, February 2005, 0 241 14209 1
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... between sanity and madness always has a question-mark over it.’ Phillips doesn’t want to get rid of the question-mark, but he thinks it helps give sanity a bad reputation, and like Pound invites us to think about what ‘sane enough’ means. He cites an American court ruling of 2003 that ordered a prisoner on death row to be ‘forcibly treated for ...

Something an academic might experience

Michael Neve, 26 September 1991

The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... appears here as a bizarre arena for endless folies à deux, from their early history up to R.D. Laing. Porter’s extracts convey a sense of menace, of exchanges of rage between the doctors and the confined, trapped in the asylum milieu. While clearly believing that dreadful things have been done to patients, and quoting throughout the book from David ...

Squealing to Survive

John Lahr: Clancy was here, 19 July 2018

Black Sunset: Hollywood Sex, Lies, Glamour, Betrayal and Raging Egos 
by Clancy Sigal.
Icon, 352 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 1 78578 439 2
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The London Lover: My Weekend that Lasted Thirty Years 
by Clancy Sigal.
Bloomsbury, 274 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 4088 8580 2
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... fathers’. From an early age he developed what he calls a ‘star astigmatism’. R.D. Laing later told him he had ‘the makings of a first-class schizophrenic’. His problem, he admits, was ‘slipp[ing] onto the soundstage of my mind where I can control the camera, lighting, make-up’. Black Sunset, a memoir written with the pace and in the ...

What did it matter who I was?

Gaby Wood, 19 October 1995

The Blue Suit 
by Richard Rayner.
Picador, 216 pp., £9.99, July 1995, 0 330 33821 8
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The Liar’s Club 
by Mary Karr.
Picador, 317 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 0 330 33597 9
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... time. Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club is subtitled ‘a memoir’. It opens with a quote from R.D. Laing: ‘We have our secrets and our needs to confess. We may remember ... what an accomplishment it was when we, in fear and trembling, could tell our first lie.’ But the story is one of incredible torment, told by the injured party. It is remembered as Karr ...

Good Housekeeping

Jenny Diski, 11 February 1993

The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer 
by Brian Masters.
Hodder, 242 pp., £14.99, February 1993, 0 340 57482 8
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... in the reassuring soup of “objectivity”.’ In spite of quoting the dubious authority of R.D. Laing, there is no questioning Master’s intention, which is serious, as it was in his previous book on Dennis Nilsen, another killer whose behaviour was inexplicable to most people. Murder is the borderline between society and the wilderness. It is the ...

Heil Putain!

Lorna Scott Fox: Lydie Salvayre, 26 January 2006

The Company of Ghosts 
by Lydie Salvayre, translated by Christopher Woodall.
Dalkey Archive, 184 pp., £7.99, January 2006, 1 56478 350 2
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... keeps people shopping. This is the argument of the anti-psychiatry movement that goes back to R.D. Laing. What’s unusual about Salvayre’s thinking is that she identifies political dysfunction as the root of emotional dysfunction, which is perhaps why she exposes the secret hell of family with such relish. Society drives someone mad, and the family passes ...


Elizabeth Lowry: Doris Lessing, 22 March 2001

Doris Lessing: A Biography 
by Carole Klein.
Duckworth, 283 pp., £18.99, March 2000, 0 7156 2951 4
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Ben, in the World 
by Doris Lessing.
Flamingo, 178 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 00 655229 3
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... Rhodesia; in the 1960s, a bitingly reluctant figurehead for the women’s movement; a disenchanted Red who retains a primarily sociological understanding of the individual; a colonial writer edgily occupying a position of prominence at the heart of the metropolitan literary scene. Her global readership stretches from America to the Third World and she has ...

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