A Fractured Mind
My Life with
Robert B. Oxnam
(Hyperion)Part IIA reader of Fractured Mind or any other psychological autobiography will want two things. One is to have enough information to get a handle on the author's condition, in this case, the concept of DID. How does it begin, what does it do, how do you identify it, what is the prognosis for one who suffers from it?One also wants to get through this or any other 275 page book without the plague of doubt, fatigue, or physical or mental distress. Which was, for this reader, not the case with A Fractured Mind.Obviously, Oxnam went through a pain-ridden decade. Hell, he went though a pain-ridden life. If the diagnosis of MPD is correct, and the end result --- integrating eleven characters in search of an author down to a mere three --- was a success, so be it.However, the real problem here is not Oxnam's fractured mind. It is having to put up eleven or so characters who are, to say the least, Big Bores.
It's one thing to have these guys frolicking about in the author's head; it is another for us to have to read their writings. Some idiot called Bobby takes over the narrative at not one or two or three but at many --- too many --- points. He is not only a juvenile delinquent in thought and action, his writing is a royal pain. This is on the death of Lady Di:
I jump up wide-awake. Like I wasn't even asleep. "No," I cried out. "She can't be dead. Not Princess Di" I loved Princess Di. So for several days, I mainly sat by the TV set. I wished I could go to London. I would have taken flowers and stood in the street. I wanted to scream at that old ugly queen. And I wanted to clap for Diana's brother. When the funny guy sang that pretty song --- you know, "Candle in the Wind" --- I couldn't stop crying.
Robert, or whoever has his name on the title page is not a great writer, nor is he a dreadful one. But some of his alters: forget it.
Thus, there is the tiny question of responsibility. Who exactly is running this show? A woman named Vishakha marries into this menagerie. At one point, she takes off for Australia. Then Bobby (not Robert, mind you) digs up a lady named Bridget and moves in with her. When Vishakha returns and finds the apartment empty, Bobby pops up and tells her,
that the marriage was between Robert and Vishaka, not Bobby and Vishaka. I always liked Vishaka and I was happy for Robert. But I wasn't married to Vishaka. She was like a nice aunt.
And then the topper: "I think it would have been a mess without MPD."
Shortly after this, there's the suicide attempt. "None of us gave much thought to Bobby, who roamed about the apartment, muttering in Chinese, "I'm bad," over and over again. Nobody noticed the afternoon when he opened a bottle of sleeping pills and downed a couple of dozen."
It wasn't until five hours later that Vishakha, having made several unanswered phone calls, rushed back to the apartment and found me lying unconscious on the floor. The first thing I remember was seeing Vishakha and a psychiatric nurse talking to me in the hospital. Somehow we had escaped self-inflicted death.
"Somehow we had escaped self-inflicted death." Exactly who is the we running this movie ... and this book? As my old sweetie Leumel would say when I said "we," as in "We should go to the store" or "We should go to bed." She'd say "We? We? You got a frog in your pocket?"
A Fractured Mind is an extended brief --- legal, medical, emotional --- that says "I have this thing called MPD. It makes me do the damnedest things. I swear to you, I can't control it ... or all these other characters."
Sometimes we find ourselves coming close to believing Oxnam. But then one of those strange characters inside of us pops up and says, "You idiot! You believe that!"--- Carlos Amantea