Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives

Brian Dillon

Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives

Tormented Hope is a book about mind and body, fear and hope, illness and imagination. It explores, in the stories of nine individuals, the relationship between mind and body as it is mediated by the experience, or simply the terror, of being ill. And in an intimate investigation of those nine lives, it shows how the mind can make a prison of the body, by distorting our sense of ourselves as physical beings. Brian Dillon looks at nine prominent hypochondriacs – James Boswell, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Daniel Paul Schreber, Alice James, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol – and what their lives tell us about the way the mind works with, and against, the body. 4.4 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Psychology & Psychiatry
Format Hardback
Pages 288
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication September 2009
ISBN 978-1844881345
Publisher Penguin
 

Tormented Hope is a book about mind and body, fear and hope, illness and imagination. It explores, in the stories of nine individuals, the relationship between mind and body as it is mediated by the experience, or simply the terror, of being ill. And in an intimate investigation of those nine lives, it shows how the mind can make a prison of the body, by distorting our sense of ourselves as physical beings. Brian Dillon looks at nine prominent hypochondriacs – James Boswell, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Daniel Paul Schreber, Alice James, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol – and what their lives tell us about the way the mind works with, and against, the body.

Reviews

The Independent

Michael Bywater

The sense of contested mortality, of uneasiness with or terror of one's own incarnation, is the theme of Dillon's book, nor does he judge those caught in the whirlpool. His is not the witless menagerie of the tabloid or reality TV. Despite, or because of, that, Tormented Hopes is not a book you can't put down. It is a book you will keep putting down, both to absorb what he has said and to postpone reaching the end. There is no higher compliment.

25/09/2009

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The New Statesman

John O'Connell

Deeply engrossing... As fans of his first book, In the Dark Room, will know, he is an uncommonly elegant and precise writer: there isn't a duff sentence here, or a misplaced word. What's more, he asks all the right questions. If I declare myself to be sick, does that mean I am sick? Is the desire to be sick itself an illness? The irony is that the answers don't really matter. As Dillon writes: "Hypochondria makes dupes of us all because death will have the last laugh."

08/10/2009

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The Scotsman

Stuart Kelly

Dillon's book is constantly intelligent, and studded with the kind of factoids I love: Proust had 110 nasal cauterisations; Glenn Gould practically lived on scrambled eggs; Warhol found having his wig taken off more traumatic than being shot by Valerie Solanas. One word of warning: if you do suffer from hypochondria (and I confess I'm not immune to it), reading Dillon's fascinating book will give you endless new symptoms to worry over.

06/09/2009

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The Guardian

Ian Pindar

[An] ingenious and intriguing book... Dillon looks beyond the comic stereotype of the hypochondriac to the tragicomic reality. He also makes a strong case for there being a link between "health anxiety" and creativity, following the philosopher Gilles Deleuze's observation that many great artists have frail health, the idea of the writer or artist being simultaneously the médecin and the malade of a civilisation... his conclusion that "the power of imagination . . . is in itself a kind of pathology" has profound implications for literature.

03/10/2009

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The Sunday Times

Kevin Jackson

Somewhat to simplify, Dillon contends that the triumph of most of his hypochondriacs is not that they accomplished their works and deeds despite their illnesses, but that they used the condition of fragile health as a means of living their lives in productive ways... [An] excellent book

13/09/2009

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The Daily Mail

Sam Leith

The saddest - but also, perhaps, in a black way, the funniest - case study is that of Alice James. The sister of the novelist Henry James and the philosopher William James, Alice seemed happier as she grew more ill... Brian Dillon - himself a confessed hypochondriac - is a superbly careful writer and a sensitive, if sometimes abstruse, thinker. If there's a criticism to be made, it's that he sometimes seems too attached to theory.

08/05/2009

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The Daily Telegraph

Cassandra Jardine

The book has its origins in a series of lectures. The examples are fascinating, but the tone is dry and not enough is done to draw them all together. Michael Jackson was, no doubt, still alive and able to sue when Dillon was writing, but the book’s historical sweep left me longing for at least an epilogue on more recent health obsessives.

25/09/2009

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