||Custom Books Publishing
||November 19, 2008
A devastating indictment of the American Dream.
The main character, Mr. Wamblie, is a former success story who has lost everything in a mid-life crisis that includes a year in a psychiatric hospital.
However, if Wamblie's fears (while exaggerated) are essentially justified,
how can the hospital acknowledge them and still maintain the important divide between sane and insane? How, indeed.
This is the 'ceremony of innocence', the unanswerable conundrum that everyone seeks to avoid...
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Ceremony of Innocence
Mr. Wamblie was a success story: upper middle class, wife, kids, suburban affluence and executive status. He has lost it all in a mid-life crisis that includes a year in a psychiatric hospital and ends where the book begins: in a YMCA room. With his constant ruminations and regret, Wamblie is the darker side of life. He reminds us he pursued living without thinking until certain demon questions engulfed him. Is Wamblie a martyr, a prophet or the engine of his own undoing? Are Wamblie's obsessive questions merely self serving? Are Wamblie's caregivers in denial or just more willing to accept the limitations of life?
Finally, is Wamblie sane? Do we really know what sanity is and, if so, can we measure it? If Wamblie's fears (while exaggerated) are essentially justified, how can the hospital acknowledge them and still maintain the important divide between sane and insane? This is the 'ceremony of innocence', the unanswerable conundrum that everyone seeks to avoid.
Ceremony of Innocence is the story of Mr. Wamblie; an 'everyman' character who satisfies no one. Constantly mouthing the most disturbing truths, continuously and obnoxiously complaining of the cruelty of others while certain he has played silent martyr to them, he, all the while, pursues a circular reasoning that alternately justifies and condemns a variety of actions from withdrawal to murder.
---If everyone saw it…as a problem it would soon cease because it would just be a matter of arriving at a solution and, then, carrying it out. Consequently, just seeing a problem, provided others see it too, is a step in the right direction before anything is done. Conversely, if you, alone, see a problem it may persist indefinitely since others would have to be convinced before action could be taken. And, of course, it follows that a problem is not a problem, has no hope of ever becoming a problem, if it isn’t seen by somebody, anybody. In other words, if no one sees a problem there is no problem. In that sense, you create one by seeing it. And who could disagree, it’s better not to create them although they have a way of happening in spite of our best efforts.---
Wamblie’s mantra is haunting: “insanity is a reality of life since sanity only exists when you choose to impose it…” Ultimately, the Wamblies are sacrificed to what is generally considered to be a ‘greater good’. If all the world is composed of people who “try to stop time… or try to pass it…”, Wamblie and his kind will always be prevented from reminding people of it.
This extraordinary novel contains the interior monologue of several artfully crafted ramblings composed with the tension and rhythm of music. Wamblie’s dissociated thinking is truly a “concerto for voice and voices”.
Entering the mind of a psychiatric patient by Stephen Pletko
"You [the main character] also dwelled on a certain question a lot; the question of what had gone wrong. I mean why were you in a hospital being treated like an incompetent? After all, you came from a good home with a normal upbringing, you went to good schools, you married well, had plenty of money, plenty of friends, all the comforts, and you got promotion after promotion and had risen quite high. So how did you come to a [psychiatric] hospital? It was a question you couldn't answer. It was, as you see now, unanswerable..."
This above is found in this fascinating novel by Timothy V. Richardson. There is no information about Richardson included in the book but an Internet search reveals that he was originally trained as an educator and psychologist but for more than twenty-five years has been a writer and accomplished poet.
This novel contains the internal rambling ruminations of its main character, a patient with a psychopathology or mental disorder, who struggles to satisfactorily answer to himself many, many questions (not just the one posed above). These ruminations blend Richardson's experience in psychology with his experience as a poet and writer.
These internal ruminations are composed with a tension and rhythm of a musical composition called a concerto. One definition of a concerto is that it is a musical work for one or more voices with instrumental accompaniment. Thus, the subtitle of this novel (not indicated on the book's cover but indicated on the novel's second inside title page) is "Concerto for Voice and Voices."
(Note that a concerto is usually divided into three parts or movements and therefore this novel is divided into three movements with each movement having chapters entitled introduction, exposition, development, and coda.)
This novel is not an easy read. This is not because of the writing which is superb and realistically captures the essence of a person with a psychopathology. It is because such people resort to circular reasoning, tend to skip incessantly from topic to topic, have convoluted thinking, etc. Simultaneously, this novel raises issues about mental health and the sometimes indistinct line between sanity and insanity.
Finally, as I implied above, this novel details a psychopathology from a patient's perspective (which makes this book unique). Here is just one of this patient's ruminations:
"People who are crazy aren't out of touch, they're not the ones who have broken from reality. No! They're in touch because seeing the truth puts them in an altered sense of consciousness which no one else can comprehend because they haven't gone through the suffering which brings insight which brings suffering to crazy people who are, therefore, insightful seeing the truth, feeling the truth ever so keenly while the rest steer clear remaining ignorant and happy, but crazy and out of touch because it's not all beneficial being crazy and seeing the truth when you take into account the suffering which cannot be discounted since there's also a selfishness involved which results in gaining understanding on the part of crazy people who are the most selfish of all since they can't share a moment of experience with anyone..."
In conclusion, I found this to be an unforgettable and unique novel where the reader actually enters the mind of a psychiatric patient!! I've never read something so extraordinary!!!
So, this is where you've ended up...
Who's to say what qualifies as insanity?
That's one of the most haunting questions of modern society, which can seem all too horribly insane itself. In which case, insanity may well be the only sane response to it. Which brings us to our latest patient, Mr. Wamblie ...
I haven't read anything quite so troubling & compelling as this novel in a long time. It's not light reading, and certainly not for everyone -- but it opens a window on the inner landscape of the disturbed psyche. Except that there may be good reasons for that disturbance, and in fact ignoring the causes of that disturbance is possibly even more disturbed, even though it's "normal."
And here we get to the strength of this monologue, mundane in its everyday details that we all recognize, extraordinary in its presentation of that mundane reality. It's easy to reel off page after page of stream-of-consciousness -- but it's very difficult to do so with grace, precision, and a level of craft so finely tuned that the reader isn't consciously aware of it.
Author Timothy Victor Richardson has subtitled this novel "Concerto for Voice and Voices." This is no pretentious affectation, but a simple statement of fact. He has crafted prose that accurately reflects the circuitous, even obsessive thought patterns of someone struggling to make sense of a world he's discovered to be senseless -- a world that insists on "curing" him for his own good -- or is it more for everyone else's own good?
Not only is the prose crafted with skill, shaped with an inner music & cadence that reveals a remarkably gifted ear, but it speaks in a voice that many readers will recognize as their own at times. I think many thoughtful people draw back from the world on occasion & are startled to suddenly see it as something odd, arbitrary, unreal -- a chaos with artificial meaning overlaid on its seething surface. And for some, like Mr. Wamblie, there's no returning to that formerly meaningful world, because it no longer exists.
As I said, it's not light reading. It'll make you uncomfortable, it might even make you squirm -- but it'll make you think. I was reminded a little of Gertrude Stein & William Carlos Williams, both in its depiction of the modern psyche, and in its prose, which is stripped of detail & ornamental richness, yet possesses a strange, gray, everyday richness of the ordinary. Even the underlying horror is gray, unassuming ... and perhaps that's the most troubling thing of all. If you give yourself over to it, you won't soon forget it!
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Reader Reviews for "Ceremony of Innocence"
|Reviewed by L Freeman
An intensely gripping drama played out in tormenting circumstances. The voices twisting every thought in Wamblie’s head making you feel compassion for his poor soul while supporting his decision to continue searching for light at the end of his tunnel. At times you can relate to his experiences with amazing commonality, putting your own sanity in question.
This fascinating read reveals the inner workings of a man telling his story as only a madman can, bringing insight to a terrifying illness. Timothy Victor Richardson has made it possible to see the world through the mind of a schizophrenic. A real experience.
|Reviewed by Betsy Bell
|The subtitle of Ceremony of Innocence is “Concerto for Voice and Voices.” If Richardson did not have such an amazing mastery of the cadences and rhythms of the English language, reading this book would not be anywhere near as disturbing as it is. But he has captured the feel of this internal monologue (dialogue?) of apparent schizophrenia with disquieting accuracy. Being inside his antihero Wamblie’s head is no picnic for the reader, no easy read. Richardson asks more questions than he answers. And he raises issues about mental health and cultural norms that affect all of us in one way or another, regardless of how close to the sanity/insanity line we think we walk.|
|Reviewed by Toni Seger
|This book is no small achievement. Its style of interior monologue is the closest this reviewer has ever gotten to insanity in the printed word. Its artfully crafted ramblings contain a tension and a rhythm that seek to duplicate music.
But there is much more to this book than verbal and philosophical gymnastics, however dazzling. The book poses serious questions: Is the main character sane or insane? Do we really know what sanity is and, if so, do we know how to measure it?