First diagnosed with schizophrenia following his freshman year at Harvard, Steve Lansky learned over the years to manage his mental illness with the help of medication. By middle age, he had forged a life as a poet and teacher. But like so many similarly afflicted, he felt heavy and hamstrung by the drug that had helped keep him sane. When a new drug came on the market, Lansky switched to it, hoping to regain the energy and lightness of his youth. It worked. He was able to pursue a romance with a young aspiring actress. He started riding his bike again-a lifelong passion. But his renewed energy also led him in directions less healthy and tethered to reality.
As The Break begins, Steve is embarking, despite admonitions from academic colleagues, on an ill-considered and quixotic train trip from his Cincinnati hometown to The New Yorker Festival, where he believes he will be able to persuade someone at the magazine to publish one of his poems. In a voice that is at times comic, at other times harrowing, Lansky describes his increasing disorientation, which culminates, after he gets on the wrong train home, with a late-night arrest in a trainyard and a stint in a New Jersey state mental hospital. Following his release, he embarks on another poorly conceived journey, this time an unwelcome visit to his brother in Vermont with whom he shares a plan to see author Margaret Atwood so she and Steve can discuss her novel Alias Grace. With a hero who is part Bukowski, part Neal Cassady, part Humbert Humbert, The Break shows how tenuous sanity is, and how easy it is for inspiration to give way to madness.
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"This memoir, raw with sheer narrative power and brutally and searingly honest, will break your heart, I suspect, as it broke mine. So much struggle, so much hope and despair, so much love, so much life. . . . Life, life. The choices and sacrifices we make to endure it.
Read this book, reader."
-Mikhail Iossel, author of Love Like Water, Love Like Fire
"In The Break, Steven Lansky takes us on yet another wild literary ride. Incisively self-reflective and told with skill, charm, and brutal honesty, it's a work quite unlike any other that I'm aware of in the literature of mental health."
-Jeff Parker, author of Ovenman
"There is a great peace emanating from Steve Lansky's pages. With patience and a craftsman's care he gently leads us through worlds of pain and puzzlement."
-Arthur Allen, author of Vaccine
"Sharing our stories is how we get better, as well as fighting ignorance and stigma. We need more narrative accounts like Steve's."
-Mark Vonnegut, author of The Eden Express