This is one of the very few instances in which the book is eclipsed by the brilliance and wholesomeness of the film. The novel on its own seems dry, flaky, too far removed from reality and existence of characters to indulge the reader with. There was no take-away after having finished the story but underlying messages of meaning of sanity, its perspective in society, the internal confusion and its physical manifestations were all better explored in the film version.
The brevity of the book comes at the cost of a vacuous understanding of our narrator’s world. As a memoir, Kaysen fails to establish herself as a reliable mouthpiece of the insane world she is thrust in against her will. Characters around her such as Lisa, Polly and Daisy are just that – mere characters sketched to complement the necessity of her world. They come out as real-life people only in the movie in which the characters and their situations are dealt with poignant sympathy.
- Scar tissue has no character. It’s not like skin. It doesn’t show age or illness or pallor or tan. It has no pores, no hair, no wrinkles. It’s like a slipcover. It shields and disguises what’s beneath. That’s why we grow it; we have something to hide
- In our parallel world, things happened that had not yet happened in the world we’d come from
- Actually, it was only part of myself I wanted to kill: the part that wanted to kill herself, that dragged me into the suicide debate and made every window, kitchen implement, and subway station a rehearsal for tragedy.
- My hunger, my thirst, my loneliness and boredom and fear were all weapons aimed at my enemy, the world. They didn’t matter a whit to the world, of course, and they tormented me, but I got a gruesome satisfaction from my sufferings. They proved my existence. All my integrity seemed to lie in saying No.
- Freedom was the price of privacy.
- Cynthia was depressive; Polly and Georgina were schizophrenic; I had a character disorder. Sometimes they called it a personality disorder
- Experience is thick. Perceptions are thickened and dulled Time is slow, dripping slowly through the clogged filter of thickened perception
- Fantasies don’t include repercussions
- Naked, we needed protection, and the hospital protected us. Of course, the hospital had stripped us naked in the first place—but that just underscored its obligation to shelter us.
- “You spent nearly two years in a loony bin! Why in the world were you in there? I can’t believe it!” Translation: If you’re crazy, then I’m crazy, and I’m not, so the whole thing must have been a mistake. “You spent nearly two years in a loony bin? What was wrong with you?” Translation: I need to know the particulars of craziness so I can assure myself that I’m not crazy. “You spent nearly two years in a loony bin? Hmmm. When was that, exactly?” Translation: Are you still contagious?
- Think of being in a train, next to another train, in a station. When the other train starts moving, you are convinced that your train is moving. The rattle of the other train feels like the rattle of your train, and you see your train leaving that other train behind. It can take a while—maybe even half a minute—before the second interpreter sorts through the first interpreter’s claim of movement and corrects it. That’s because it’s hard to counteract the validity of sensory impressions. We are designed to believe in them.
- As far as I could see, life demanded skills I didn’t have. The result was chronic emptiness and boredom