Monday, January 7, 2013

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

Daniel Smith

If you are curious about the experience of clinical anxiety, Daniel Smith's memoir describes it in vivid (and often quite funny) detail. From his fraught childhood with two anxious parents to his traumatic first sexual encounter to his panicked reactions to work stresses and mundane daily events, Smith shares it all. The style and humour of the book is reminiscent of David Sedaris, leaning towards Dan Savage—unless you want to explain what a winking vagina is, don't leave this one where your 10-year-old will find it. Personally, I'm hard to shock and appreciated the craft with which Smith tells his story. There are no cheap jokes here. In fact, the humour is laced with a real sense of compassion, insight, and, ironically enough, steady-mindedness. I was particularly impressed by the way he talks about his mother: although clearly recognizing her parenting as a factor in his anxiety disorder, he also acknowledges her strengths and never turns her into either a villain or a caricature. Although this memoir is by no means a feel-good kind of book, it's certainly reassuring that someone so gripped by oversized fears could write with such a sense of perspective. Maybe there's hope for us all.

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