Brilliantly Written and a Fascinating Ride!
“Invisible Driving” is a personal memoir that reads like fiction, seducing the reader with gripping drama, humor, anguish, love, sex, drugs and a jazzy rendition of mental illness. But don’t let that fool you. Alistair McHarg’s book is a major contribution to the memoir genre in general, and to writing on mental illness, in particular.
The book opens with humor that made me laugh aloud (books never do that for me) and it ends with a sublimely peaceful trip to the middle road of sanity– an amazing accomplishment after the roller coaster ride he takes you on throughout the book. This is one of the most powerful mental illness memoirs I have ever read, and I have read many because I have written one myself.
Alistair McHarg’s memoir is on such a lofty level of creativity, description and sheer writing ability that it leaves memoirs by Kay Jamison, John McManamy and William Styron on dusty shelves below his. Not one of them comes close to his portrayal of Bipolar Disorder.
McHarg’s writing is very well-crafted. He is a master of metaphor and comparisons. His descriptions are so vivid as to stop you dead in your tracks to admire the writing itself, despite the desire to race ahead because the story is so riveting, one can’t wait to find out what will happen next. (I had to read the book through once for the story and then go back to admire the writing.) He paints a visual picture, complete with sound track, and, indeed, this memoir could make a memorable film.
The words he comes up with that have no established meaning but are mood-activated, punctuate the narrative with pizzazz and are never tiresome. The humor is a cross between Robin Williams and the Marx Brothers but is delivered with the auspicious feeling of a mind racing out of control with breathtaking speed. That is how the book starts out. It quickly proceeds to the seriousness of it all. The juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy is extremely effective. The descriptions are spot-on. My all-time favorite is his description of mental hospital inmates as “aristocrats of the soul.” McHarg is a poet at heart and the heart of this story comes out as poetry.
McHarg tells you what it is really like to think as someone with Bipolar Disorder. He shares his thoughts and motives with a generous honesty that is stunning and a clarity that is crystal clear. I can avow to the accuracy of this portrayal because I am Bipolar myself. But this book is not just for people “on the back of the bus,” as McHarg describes the mentally ill in one of his postings on his blog. This memoir is for everyone! The drama has mass appeal as all good drama does. It is a page-turner, make no mistake about it. And I would venture to say should be required reading for all brands of therapists.
Particularly poignant is the role his love for his daughter plays in this book, and, in his life. We, and I mean by “we” in this context, those of us with mental illness, need an added incentive to work towards in our journey to sanity. For me, it was to find real love. For McHarg, it was to be there for his daughter who, from the very beginning shows a love for her father that is totally touching, as is his for her. And that is what it is all about in the end, for all of us, mentally ill or not. We all have our journeys but some are more treacherous than others.
“Invisible Driving” offers a message of hope to the road-weary traveler. Take his tour. It will not disappoint!
E. Stockdale Wolfe
To see the original review and purchase Invisible Driving click HERE