Finalist for 2013 Minnesota Book Award, Memoir & Creative Nonfiction
Letters to a Young Madman,a man of genius, of uncanny writing ability, and of profound empathy for the mentally ill, recounts his "spectacular plunge from competency into official madness." Paul Gruchow’s account of the mental illness, which eventually claimed his life, explores the double injury inflicted on the mentally ill. First, there is the illness itself, with its often debilitating symptoms. But then there is the more insidious injury made by society, stigmatization: "We no longer believe, as we did 250 years ago, that the mentally ill are animals, but we are not ready to grant that they are fully human, either." In a voice remarkably clear, eloquent, and calm, Gruchow shows us why he came to regard the mentally ill as "his heroes."
Gary Schoener, the Director of the Minneapolis Walk-In Counseling Center, thinks Gruchow writes with “the power of a confessional poet like Anne Sexton.” He further says of the book, “It is a first hand account -- an authentic look from the inside-- with graphic personal descriptions admission to a psychiatric ward, electroconvulsive shock treatment, and so many other things familiar to the mentally ill, but not everyone else. What is so illuminating about this very honest and direct personal account is the integration of personal observations with philosophical statements and ideas."
"Gruchow’s writing style to be very intelligent, incisive and spare–which I really like for a book like this. He’s very frank and up front about his own great struggles, which makes for compelling reading." - Henry Emmons, MD, The Chemistry of Joy, The Chemistry of Calm, and The Chemistry of Joy Workbook
"As a psychologist and a creative writer, I recommend this fascinating book to anyone who wants to read about mental illness from the inside." - Cathy McClure Gildiner, Psychologist and author of Too Close to the Falls and After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties
Read more about the book here.
Read the review at Psych Central.
Paul Gruchow, once described as our contemporary Thoreau, wrote on subjects ranging from the culture of the tall grass prairie to what we teach (and fail to teach) rural children. His work is widely acclaimed for its lyrical prose and eloquence. A respected and inspiring educator, Paul Gruchow’s writer in residence involvements included St. Olaf and Concordia Colleges, The University of Minnesota, The Lake Superior Studies Program, as well as lectures and workshops in public schools, churches, bookstores, government and environmental organizations. He won both the Minnesota Book and Lifetime Achievement Awards and in the 1980’s edited The Worthington Globe, an award-winning newspaper. Paul Gruchow took his own life in Duluth, Minnesota, on February 22, 2004, at the age of 56.