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Submitted Literature

A Can of Madness: An Autobiography on Manic Depression

By Jason Pegler


Beyond the occasionally fractured or laboured narrative comes an engaging, strong – and strongly-worded – account of manic depression.  Peppered with allusions to the world of rave parties and drugs, Jason Pegler provides a convincing insight into this condition in all its physical, psychological and social fallout.  With reference to literary figures such as Ivor Gurney and Sylvia Plath and real institutions such as Coney Hill Hospital in Gloucestershire, the author attempts to broaden and deepen the drama and context of his own battle for sanity.  There are sometimes gleeful, distasteful and candid accounts of extreme violence, misogyny and a bleak promiscuity which suggest a complex interface between the author’s experience of manic depression and his personality.  Such stark accounts are intended to disturb and they do just that.  Yet in the fog of drugs, alcohol, paranoia and humiliation we gain sense of a person struggling for a refurbished, transcendent identity – a self to be proud of.  If there is one thing that Pegler is determined to do it is not to ‘bow down’ or give up.  In many ways his memoir is one of continued survival – a quest for self-esteem against the disabling grain of manic depression.

The memoir is also concerned with how people perceive those deemed ‘crazy’ and the response of professionals working in the field.  Here Pegler offers a sobering view of psychiatry, noting with some resentment the shortfalls in care, although he does soften his line by indicating that he came across good, dedicated staff.  In all this we get a fair sense of what hinders and promotes recovery of individuals when mentally ill and how professionals might improve their game.

Key Themes:

  • Autobiography
  • Bipolar Affective Disorder

Reference: Jason, Pegler. 2002. A Can of Madness: An Autobiography on Manic Depression. Chipmunkapublishing, 2002


Professor Paul Crawford
Date Review Submitted: Sunday 3rd May 2009