This sounds more sensational than it actually is, Link between creativity and mental illness confirmed
People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, there being a particularly salient connection between writing and schizophrenia. This according to researchers at Karolinska Institutet, whose large-scale Swedish registry study is the most comprehensive ever in its field.
[ ]…The present study tracked almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives, identified down to second-cousin level. Since all were matched with healthy controls, the study incorporated much of the Swedish population from the most recent decades. All data was anonymized and cannot be linked to any individuals.
The results confirmed those of their previous study: certain mental illness – bipolar disorder – is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors specifically also were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse) and were almost 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
The researchers also observed that creative professions were more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism. According to Simon Kyaga, consultant in psychiatry and doctoral student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the results give cause to reconsider approaches to mental illness.
Or maybe it is as sensational. Historically artists and writers do seem to have a sizable quotient of relationship and substance abuse issues. I watched the version of ‘On The Road’ ( about two hours long) that was shown at the film festivals, which I’ve read is not going to be the theatrical release. It has gotten mixed reviews. Though generally Garrett Hedlund’s performance (Dean Moriarty or in real life Neal Cassidy) has gotten praise. While deserved, I was caught up in the Jack Kerouac character, played by Sam Riley (*Kerouac is the Sal Paradise character). Kerouac participated in events, but at least in this film version he never submerges himself in the lives and life style the way Cassidy/Moriarty do. As a writer he could be literally a little crazy, but not so far that he could not pull himself back from the edge and also have enough perspective – which requires some emotional distance – to write a good story. Even with that perspective Kerouac has to tap into something deep, a state of mind that was not afraid of the constraints that society instills in us very early on in life. To behave oneself means to a large degree not to be too imaginative, not to stray too far from the norms of socialization. Artists have to tap into something that violates boundaries. The tension between what society demands and how the artist’s mind wants to untangle itself from those constraints makes for lifelong tension, a conflict between expectations and what is considered normal. Those boundaries are not all evil. Not recognizing and establishing some boundaries is part of what lead to Cassidy’s death at only 42. Especially in their youth the Beat Generation, lead some hardscrabble lives – hard drinking, experimenting with drugs, partying all night, going without food, shelter and health care. It is easy to come away from looking at that through the books or movies and pass judgment. There is the another side to the being normal, being another brick in the wall behind the white picket fence in suburbia, following all the rules. Sofia Coppola took a look at that side in The Virgin Suicides (1999) – where as the story tag line goes, a girl in a strict normal religious home commits suicide because her life is so stifled by this claustrophobic normality. There must be some middle ground, Agatha Christie, Eudora Welty and William Styron all managed to make it well into their golden years.
Even Kerouac, who knew that the body could only take so much abuse died in his forties from a sudden illness related to liver damage from drinking.
* In the first edition of ‘On The Road’ Kerouac changed all the real names of people such as himself, Cassidy, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg to pseudonyms. It seems like I read somewhere that they are coming out with an anniversary edition of the original with the real names just as Jack had written it on one long scroll – though the book will not be on a scroll.
Speaking of Eudora Welty, even great writers know rejection. In 1933 she wrote a letter to The New Yorker seeking work,
March 15, 1933
I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.
I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930-31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia’s School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A. (’29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world. For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, santa claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.
They turned down her kind offer, even though she claimed to be a good dancer in addition to her other talents. The New Yorker did eventually publish several pieces of her work. The full letter is at the link.
Some interesting photojournalism, Sharing Life and Liquor on a Changing Bushwick Street
Mitt Romney: The Great Deformer. Is Romney really a job creator? Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, takes a scalpel to the claims. What will we tell the children? It is officially virtuous to be a thief, looter, serial liar and lazy arrogant demagogue.
William Hogeland has a new book (“Founding Finance: How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation (Discovering America”) out on the early economic history of the U.S. Even then there was a struggle between the workers and the greedy plutocrats, New “Founding Finance”
The subjects of the book will not all be news to readers of this blog. Founding Finance ranges like a bull in a china shop through those critical years 1765-1795, turning up dire conflicts among 18th-century Americans over finance and economics. These are the conflicts that, while shockingly little-known, I think played directly into – no, they were — the decisive arc of the American founding, the stuff that really made us who we are.
Little-known founding episodes that may sound eerily resonant:
predatory lending in a real-estate bubble about to pop
feverish speculation by upscale investors in dubious debt instruments
foreclosure crises sending ordinary families into poverty and dependence
popular uprisings against government complicity in wealth concentration
militarized crackdowns on democratic approaches to finance
and — of course! — much, much more
This is not, in other words, another book about founding conflicts between Americans and England. We won that war. This is about the founding war between some Americans and other Americans, a war over money, debt, and government’s role in public and private finance. A war we refuse to believe formed us, a war we’ve never stopped fighting.
I offer these wild tales, featuring oddball characters both famous and obscure, in hopes of articulating an entertaining election-year dissent from Tea Party and “constitutional conservative” claims on the American founding — and from a lot of liberal preconceptions too.
There are already used copies available and a Kindle edition.