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A Diary of Manic Depression

List Price: $27.00

June 14, 2016 | Hardcover | 5.75 x 8.75, 224 Pages | ISBN 9781619027268
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“Griffiths offers readers a deep submergence in rich, creative language, including a closing series of poems, and fascinating insights into this profound and mysterious disease.” —Booklist

There are galaxies within the human mind, and madness wants to risk everything for the daring flight, reckless and beautiful and crazed. Everyone knows Icarus fell. But I love him for the fact that he dared to fly. Mania unfurls the invitation to fly too high, too near the sun which will melt the wax of the mind, and the fall will be terrible. Tristimania is an old term for manic depression, precisely capturing that sense of grief and hilarity, of violent sadness and mad highs.

From the award-winning writer of A Country Called Childhood and Savage Grace comes author Jay Griffiths’s most personal work yet. Overwhelmed by both exhaustion and stress after a long struggle to finish her previous book, Griffiths felt herself slipping into crisis. It would lead to psychotic hallucinations, endless visits to the doctor and new medications that would take over her life for an entire year, culminating in a long solo pilgrimage across Spain. Tristimania is an unusual record of a psychotic episode as Griffiths took notes throughout. Having noted that people in manic periods often don’t remember them until they’re in that stage again, Griffiths writes, “When your mind is in flight, you don’t leave tracks on the ground so there are no prints, neither footprints nor printed letters on the page. But I felt fiercely that I had to take notes… that I had to mark the tracks of its passage.” With her detailed diary entries, Griffiths is able to bring readers directly into the heart of a manic-depressive episode, pulling the curtain back on how extraordinary and how tragic these feelings are.

She also uses her own journey to illuminate something of the universal human spirit, illustrating how Shakespeare amongst others offers clues to this condition. She explores the mercuriality of manic-depression partly through the character of Mercury, and looks at the condition as the workings of the Trickster in the human psyche.

JAY GRIFFITHS won the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for best new nonfiction to be published in the U.S. for her first book A Sideways Look at Time. Her second book, Savage Grace, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political writing and for the World Book Day Award, and won the inaugural 2007 Orion Book Award in the U.S. Her other books include Anarchipelago, A Love Letter From a Stray Moon, and A Country Called Childhood.


“Her book – which recounts a bruising year of being held captive by bipolar disorder, feeling alternately suicidal then high as a helium balloon, and enduring a hyperventilating, crushing, terrifying insanity – is an education in the history, mythology and poetics of madness, in all its wildness and glaring neon. Griffiths is a high-wire writer who performs the difficult trick of taking you into the depths of her madness (“I could feel my mind on a slant, every day more off-kilter, every night sleeping less”) while managing to remain a completely reliable guide… Griffiths’s subtle point is that in madness we live inside metaphors that offer a parallel understanding of what is real that is no less valid than any other, only less tenable. And they don’t help one jot when you’re hallucinating.
Griffiths is an exciting and original thinker and her writing simply shimmers. Yet it also does sturdy duty by a certain kind of self-exposure – not the rambling, spilling, splurging of truths too long dammed up; and not the fetishised “candour” that passes for honesty and that publishers’ press releases call “heart-wrenching”, “devastating” or “searing”. This is self-exposure of a higher order.”—The New Statesman

“[A] luminous, devastingly honest memoir.” —Psychologies Magazine 

“[Griffiths’] literary background is evident, and the book nicely documents the history of manic depression… Because of its heavy devotion to exploring bipolar disorder in fiction, this work will best serve a select crowd with a love of classic literary works.” —Library Journal 

“Griffiths offers readers a deep submergence in rich, creative language, including a closing series of poems, and fascinating insights into this profound and mysterious disease.” —Booklist

“A visceral account of the turmoil experienced within a manic-depressive breakdown… Griffiths is a skilled writer who ably harnesses this flood of emotions and thoughts, and her descriptions of the mania and depression are never unwieldy.” —Kirkus

“Jay Griffiths has shown in her previous books how fearless an explorer she is of the external world. Now she takes us into another world, even larger, even wilder, one with even greater perils and mysteries to be plumbed and suffered, and brings back even stranger truths.” —Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife

Tristimania is a soaring, rapacious descent and ascent into and out of madness. The book, itself, is a swinging lifeline into those oscillations of body and mind, and a more passionate and skillful guide than Jay Griffiths, would be impossible to find.” —Gretel Ehrlich, author of Facing the Wave and In the Empire of Ice

“Griffiths invites us to follow her down the rabbit hole of the human mind, stretching back centuries to show how the world, our own psyche and language are all deeply connected.  Her unique gift of language and wit are utterly captivating.” —Nikolai Fraiture, bassist for The Strokes

“Art and madness have always shadowed each other. Tristimania traces the shadow to its source and watches as it grows long. This is one of the bravest books I’ve read in a long time.” —Paul Kingsnorth, Man Booker Prize finalist and author of The Wake



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