Monday, May 7, 2012

A Peek into the Mind of a Schizophrenic Author

I recently had the opportunity to interview a self-taught writer, painter, and musician about his writing. Vincent MaCraven is a paranoid schizophrenic. His love for the written word started more than twenty years ago, reading the classics, books on religion, philosophy, and metaphysics. His favorite authors range from Dostoevsky to Hess, Rand to Sartre. Vincent MaCraven resides somewhere in New Jersey.

Paranoid schizophrenia is often misunderstood. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is a type of schizophrenia that can be managed with proper treatment. Many people with this type of mental illness can live happy and healthy lives. MaCraven includes a short story in his book called A Case of Madness that deals with the mental illness.

MaCraven boldly states that he has no formal writing training. He simply loves a good story. It is his heart’s desire that his readers are entertained, yet provoked to ponder such themes as mental illness, religion, isolation, perseverance, horror, love, and more. He expects and appreciates honest feedback about his writing. One Amazon reviewer states, “This book is written from the heart, plain and simple. The author may not have formal training, and may not know what a prepositional phrase is, but he knows how to tell a story, and his words really paint a picture for the reader.”

Tales from the Mind of a Schizophrenic is a collection of thirty stories that explore the human mind and the human experience.  In A Case of Madness, Macraven uses his own experiences with schizophrenia to portray what being schizophrenic is like, bringing the textbook definition to life, helping readers to understand what “psychotic reactions characterized by withdrawals accompanied by a presence of hallucination, delusions, and progressive deterioration” are like from the perspective of those afflicted.

His character, Jimmy Minesad, is a paranoid schizophrenic who exhibits all of the classic signs of schizophrenia.  Jimmy has trouble distinguishing his friends from those who are not, withdraws from society, distrusts and suspects all around him, and has an imagination that has a force completely beyond his control, in which “a single thought could escalate into a series of mind-bending delusions that sends the ill one to another sphere in the cosmos,” with a single thought, setting delusions and hallucinations in motion.  Macraven invites readers inside Jimmy’s mind; “Welcome to Jimmy’s world, a world in constant motion, and a world forever changing in his mind, a world not for many but for an ill few.”  As his planes of consciousness begin to shift during a dinner party, a stunning rendering of what happens within the mind of schizophrenics unfolds for readers, as he “loses his sense of self completely” and his mind becomes “a landscape for paranoia and insanity.”  

This powerful portrayal of schizophrenia allows readers the unique opportunity to go within the mind of the schizophrenic and brings them to a point of understanding and acceptance, rather than condemning the illness.  The thirty stories that compose Tales from the Mind of a Schizophrenic each shed light on a different aspect of the human soul and mind, giving readers an appreciation for the emotions of others and helping them to feel connected with humanity.

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