From Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind Of A Funny Story

From Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind Of A Funny Story

I’m often looking for stories that deal with the issue of mental illness in a way that’s real and concrete and graphic. I don’t often find them. There seems to be a glamourization of mental illness that grates on my nerves or a sugar-coating of it that infuriates every bit of me.

I know I’m rather late to discovering this, but Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story is the book I’m going to press into many hands of many kids who are dealing with depression. One of many great passages after the jump, where our main character Craig is being instructed to fill out his meal request form in the hospital’s psychiatric ward:


“If you want two of anything, put two-x by it.” I start putting 2xs.

I wish the world were like this, if I just woke up and marked the food I’d be eating and it came to me later in the day. I suppose it is like that, except you have to pay for whatever you want to eat, so maybe what I’m asking for is communism, but I think it’s actually deeper than communism–I’m asking for simplicity, for purity and ease of choice and no pressure. I’m asking for something that no politics is going to provide, something that probably you only get in preschool. I’m asking for preschool.”

from p. 266 of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, Miramax Books, 2006.

4 Comments

  • Carrie Mesrobian on Apr 30, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for visiting – your review was much more comprehensive than mine! I need to see the movie…

  • Loraine on Apr 30, 2013 Reply

    You have a very insightful review. 🙂

    Here’s mine if you don’t mind: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2013/03/its-kind-of-funny-story-by-ned-vizzini.html

    Thanks and have a nice day! 🙂

  • Carrie Mesrobian on Mar 04, 2013 Reply

    I have plenty of curiosities in my life and mental illness is one. Especially mental illnesses I don’t have and ones that feature rather vivid, florid behaviors. I’m sure for a memoirist there are issues with your reader becoming a gawker as such, but that’s something I’m not familiar with (only guilty of, perhaps?)

    The thing I find the most annoying in portrayals of mental illness and its accompanying mental health/therapy is anything heroic and la la la Happy Ending. Even the most well-managed, medicated and therapized person with one of these disorders is going to deal with it for their whole lives in some aspect. So I hate anything where the solution is a magic bullet.

    I also hate anything that insinuates creativity comes from mental illness. (Or addiction. Fuck that.)

    I also disliked the way Susannah Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted was written. I read it many years ago, and maybe my opinion would be different now. But anything that’s like, “The Crazy People Are Really The Only Sane Ones” is reductive and bullshit. And was more of a commentary on the mental health system seventy years ago.

    In that book as well, Ms. Kaysen seemed coy. She didn’t want to talk overtly about what landed her in the hospital. Instead, she became the gawker, and catalogued all the florid vivid behaviors of the other patients in the psychiatric hospital. I didn’t understand that and I thought it was shitty of her, actually, to talk about everyone else’s problems while being reticent to share her own. As if she didn’t belong there, or was some kind of undercover journalist. I understand that describing the habitat of such a place is important; seeing others so clearly suffering and out of their minds is traumatic in itself, an important part of creating a setting. I think Ned Vizzini does this in his book very well, however; the main character doesn’t just lose himself in the other characters on the psych floor. He becomes a part of the habitat and you have real sympathy for the people he describes. It’s really a beautiful book. And so funny, too.

  • Ela on Mar 01, 2013 Reply

    The other problem is that when you mark your X, you may very well not get what you asked for, because you can be misunderstood there. In a place like that, it’s as much about different priorities than you can imagine in a sane universe as it is about lack of a perceived need to respect the people on the inside. So yes, kind of like preschool, except the candy is white and the syringes loaded…

    I’m interested to hear more about your first paragraph, as I’ve been wrestling with the question/problem/issue of how much of “that” kind of material to have as content in my poetry and prose…I’m allergic to the glamorization too, and I’m incapable of sugar-coating, but also don’t want to get typecast before I’ve even begun.

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