1. js58
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    js58 Member

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    Have you ever read a book that made you question your sanity?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by js58, Apr 17, 2016.

    I'm currently reading The Hastur Cycle which is a collection of short horror stories linked by similar themes. One of these themes is a fictitious play called "The King in Yellow", a play that is thought to cause the reader to lose their mind. This got me thinking.......

    Have you ever read a book that caused you to question your own sanity?
     
  2. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    It's an interesting question. I've certainly had plenty of experiences when my reaction to something being presented as super crazy was 'Doesn't everyone do that?'. And the counter to that too; plenty of times I've seen stuff written where someone was agonizing over a decision that to me seems so obvious; kill the guy and don't feel guilty because he started this.

    Some of that says something about me, some of it says things about the writers. These kind of very broadly drawn heroic/villainous stereotypes are always kinda unsatisfying and don't hold water in anything but the comic book world. They can certainly make you stop for a moment and wonder if it's maybe you that's crazy, not the whole rest of the world, but in the end I tend to fall on the side of believing that poorly written things reflect reality substantially less well than what I personally see and feel.

    When you get out into the world of rather better written fiction the writers tend to be competent enough to separate being crazy from being a bad person. I can see some of a characters madness in myself (as we all see some reflection of ourselves in other people) and not feel the book is judging me for doing so. In these cases the message 'everyone is crazy' is rather more satisfying and one where questioning your sanity doesn't really matter all that much. Oh I'm crazy, well everyone is so what does it matter?

    While it's a bit peripheral to all this; the act of questioning your sanity is in itself a form of insanity. Not in the sense of sometimes going 'Did I just see that?'; but if you begin to lack trust in your own faculties to communicate the real world to you then you are developing a mental illness. Believing real things are hallucinations is actually more dangerous than just having hallucinations themselves; at that point it's very very hard to actually help you too because why would you trust a doctor to actually be a real thing?

    In a more meta sense I've never read a book that made me question if there was really a book in front of me. It seems I don't have the kind of brain to buy into that kind of stuff. My consciousness is pretty stubborn. Even under the influence of class A narcotics the worst I've ever had was momentary 'did I just remember that or did I just dream that?' although that comes with the caveat that I won't touch hallucinogens with a barge pole. The real things in my head are bad enough; I don't see the need to invite some unreal ones too.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No, but I like The King in Yellow, Carcosa, etc :)
     
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  4. js58
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    js58 Member

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    Me too. It's a fantastic collection of stories.

    (True Detective
    turned me onto it.)
     
  5. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    William Burroughs made me want to question my take on reality, if that's what you mean.

    And there are a lot of books that made me question the writer's sanity, but that's not quite the same thing.
     
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  6. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Myself? No.

    But let me tell you a story.

    My wife has psychotic disorder. A quick rundown is that she isn't able to distinguish her imagination from reality. This manifests as audio hallucinations for the most part, mostly sinister in nature. She'll hear messages in music or on the radio. She needs a white noise machine in the bedroom, or her C-PAP machine will whisper to her.

    Occasionally there will be visual hallucinations. These usually last less than 10 seconds, and involve seeing corpses walking around, people eyes changing shape or color, and (occasionally) shadow people. Of course most psychotics help themselves deal with these hallucinations by constructing a fantasy in which they make sense. (This is of course more common in paranoid schizophrenics, but most psychotics do this to one extent or another.) These predominantly feature a sense of persecution in some way. A psychotic usually justifies these hallucinations and feelings with the idea that they are special in some way, and that they can see and hear things that no one else can, because they have special knowledge or intelligence.

    Back around when it came out, I gave my wife a copy of my third favorite novel John Dies at the End. If you haven't read John Dies at the End, you should drop what you're reading and immediately pick up a copy. But I'll give you a run down of what's in it.
    • An inter-dimensional conspiracy
    • Signs and billboards that give messages to the main guy that no one else can see
    • Radio and music that talks to these characters specifically to fuck with them
    • A car full of spiders that no one else can see
    • A man made of cockroaches
    • Psychic drugs
    • Mind control
    • Toys that talk to the main guy that no one else can hear
    • Psychic ghosts
    • Shadow people
    • Fucking shadow people
    My wife got through the prologue and said, "I absolutely should not read this."

    Am I to ever meet David Wong, I intend to ask him if it was his intention to write a book that reads like a list of psychotic triggers, or if it just kind of happened that way.
     
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  7. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    The sequel is about spiders living inside people's brains that make people more skeptical so they won't believe in brain-spiders. I'd say triggering psychosis was absolutely the intention.

    On-topic, David Brin has a short story that's supposed to be a message from the real world begging you to wake up and becoming increasingly dispirited as you fail to respond. It's not very well written, but I still thought it was in poor taste.
     
  8. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    I haven't read the book but I have seen the film and I read the story was written as a serial. But I really enjoyed the film so will look out for the book.
     
  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, but I once took a seminar that made me question reality. After six days of group soul-searching, I realized that everyone wasn't out to get me. I've since forgotten, but for one bright, shining moment, I was at peace.

    And some will think I'm taking a piss here, but I'm not.
     
  10. esshesse
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    esshesse Member

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    The Power of Now, by Eckart Tolle. It made me sane, and made me realize the world is insane.
     

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