Monday, April 13, 2009

Blue Genes, by Christopher Lukas

For many years I pretended my brain was not broken, because I worried that if I admitted otherwise, I'd lose all my friends. When I finally realized that I don't HAVE any friends, I began to not worry so much about keeping the broken brain under wraps, as it were. I've begun reading books about depression, and not just on the sly. I took Sally Brampton's Shoot the Damn Dog on a family vacation with me, even.

Depression is tricky because it's so easy to dismiss. I believe it was Brampton who made the point that we would never tell a cancer patient, "Just pull yourself together and you'll be fine." There's been a lot written this baseball season about teams' willingness to put players on the Disabled List with mental and psychological maladies, not just physical problems, but still most people's first reaction to hearing someone is depressive is to think, "Drama queen."

Anyway, this is a book review blog, not a forum for making you think less of me. Go on with the bore-o-phyll!

This book was interesting to me because it is not written by a depressive, but by a man whose mother and brother were depressives who committed suicide. He writes about their depressions from his perspective, which is helpful for a depressive person to understand how other people see him. (Short answer, in most cases, is ca-raze-y.)

I could have done without the talk of the boarding school boys hiding their budding erections behind their hands. What is it with old men who think anyone wants to hear about their fumbling introduction to sexuality? Evidently Bill Buckley lost his virginity to a prostitute in Phenix City, Alabama, as if anyone in the world isn't completely grossed out by that information.

As you can imagine, any book with a suicidal character is going to have some darkly black humor. When his mother killed herself, Lukas's father sent him to a friend's house because his mother was "sick." A week later he came to pick him up.

"Dad said, 'You remember that your mother was sick when you left?' I nodded. 'Well, she died.' I turned toward the backseat and said to Tony, 'Don't believe him. He's just kidding'" (85).

The brothers responded very differently, with Lukas wanting more human contact and his brother wanting less. Lukas embraced therapy and tried to get his brother to go. The book doesn't suggest he'd still be alive if he had committed to it, but it does question how things might have been different if he had.

Lukas doesn't try to write a book that is generalizable for other survivors; he's already done that with a book entitled Silent Grief. Instead, this is his story, and drawing any parallels to your own life will have to be done on your own time. Still, though, I think this type of book might be more helpful for some, who obviously have painful issues that would be uncomfortable to confront head-on.

Rating: 5 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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