The Fragmentation Podcast

19
Jan

When We Were Invincible by Jonathan Harnisch Blue Ink Starred Book Review

Author Jonathan Harnisch often writes about alter egos who live with the same mental disorders that he does, including schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome. The protagonist of this coming- of-age novel is Georgie Gust, a character who has appeared in the author’s previous novels as a sexual fetishist and even another character’s alter ego. For readers who may have explored other Harnisch novels, it’s best to think of Georgie as the blank canvas on which the author hangs his tales and not try to unify Georgie’s mythology.

Here, Georgie appears as an angry young man in the mold of Salinger’s Holden Caulfield. He’s been banished by his alcoholic mother to a boarding school in Connecticut and we meet him during a suicidal episode in a graveyard. Georgie experiences his mental illness as a literal monkey on his back; he is also dangerously self-medicating. The prose is as electrifying as it is terrifying. “Out of the wild jungle one day, rejoining me in full costume, the horn-headed monkey returns to its residence in me,” Georgie says. “This time, it was going to try and kill me, the son- of-a-bitch.”

The majority of the novel concerns Georgie’s relationship with classmate Claudia Nesbitt, and hijinks with his buddy “Fitzie.” Georgie has thoughtful debates with his Catholic girlfriend about the nature of God and she encourages him to embrace his mental illness, even as his self- destructive nature threatens to destroy him. Much like the title character in Good Will Hunting, Georgie’s redemption is somewhat expedient, but the character’s voice is utterly compelling and Harnisch inhabits his troubled young hero with compassion and grace. A bittersweet postscript finds Georgie still struggling but determined to triumph: "The consciousness of life is higher than life, and the knowledge of happiness is higher than happiness,” he notes. “And, that’s what we have to fight against. I’ll continue from now on to fight.”

The author’s authenticity no doubt comes at great personal cost, but his writing is elevated by his personal experience. This story deserves an admiring audience.

-- BlueInk Review
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19
Jan

The Brutal Truth by Jonathan Harnisch Blue Ink Book Review

In this slim volume of personal essays, the prolific New Mexico novelist, filmmaker and mental health advocate Jonathan Harnisch provides heart-wrenching insights into his long battle with schizophrenia. A gifted writer who has weathered seven suicide attempts and more than 30 hospitalizations, Harnisch speaks with chilling authority about “the shattered stained glass” of a disease whose terrifying hallucinations keep him from distinguishing between “what is real and what is not.”

As in Harnisch's earlier books—notably, his 803-page semi-autobiographical novel, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography—the 40-year-old author's moods alternate between optimism (“I always do my best to keep things positive”) and bleak despair (“The old me disappears as I fall deeper and deeper into oblivion”), but his goals always remain clear: to burn off “the fog of schizophrenia” and put an end to the stigma associated with mental illness, and the maltreatment of its victims.

Harnisch's bio, as he relates it here, is fascinating. A privileged graduate of Choate and New York University's film school, he calls himself “an unemployed artist with a botched trust fund and a life that, in terms of conventional reality, doesn't actually exist.” Also diagnosed with an array of other “comorbidities” (PTSD, Tourette's Syndrome, autism, etc.), he writes, for self-therapy, only when sleepless and symptomatic, producing the raw, anguished, truth of a survivor. In his dark mood, he tells us he is friendless and cut off from family, reduced to having philosophical conversations “with the store clerks at the Quick Fix on Maple Street”; but later, he praises his loving wife and the company of their three dogs and seven cats.

What's “real?” What's imagined? In a life so troubled, we are left with few answers. But Harnisch's harrowing quest for clarity is undeniably real. Mid-book, he seems to address the demon of schizophrenia itself, with moving eloquence: “Love me, hate me, hurt me or kill me. I keep fighting.”

-- BlueInk Review
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17
Jan

Living with Serious Mental Illness and Physical Disabilities

The idea behind this short book is to include some of Jonathan Harnisch's old Facebook and blog posts about living with severe mental illness, cognitive decline and terminal physical disabilities. The writing captures the essence of what he experiences living with serious mental illness and physical disabilities.

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15
Jan

On the Bus

A psychological thriller about the experiences of a mentally disturbed man, who rides a bus and bothers passengers based on recent circumstances in his life. The film has a surprise ending that startles the audience, but ties the fragmented story together in a dramatic conclusion.

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15
Jan

On the Bus [Trailer] HD

A psychological thriller about the experiences of a mentally disturbed man, who rides a bus and bothers passengers based on recent circumstances in his life. The film has a surprise ending that startles the audience, but ties the fragmented story together in a dramatic conclusion.

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10
Jan

Chance Encounter

I competed Chance Encounter while undergoing a dark, deep experience with depression, existential despair and with new tears for old grief. So many people appreciate this film’s inherent beauty. I thank you, all, to God, and to all my fans, friends, and family for playing such a very special role in these short experimental pieces, although perhaps without knowing it. The holiday seasons often bring along a deep sense of nostalgia for good times long gone, from lost film footage in the archives here at the production office to experimenting into the depth of new ground, and new artistic expression with my goal of finding and redefining myself, through my art. A new original soundtrack for these films originally shot on both Super 8 film stock and Hi-8 video, will be developed and inspired by the final cut of The Morning After, Chance Encounter, and Emptying His Pockets. All three films on loss, love, and life will enhance with a revised original score, or soundtrack, over the coming months. Please leave comments, if you would. The responses for all the live cuts of these pieces have inspired me to bring The Morning, which I recommend if you enjoy Chance Encounter, to the film festival circuit. It has been years since I retired from Hollywood film and TV work. It might, however, be time to see what I can do to reconnect with an audience in the world beyond online, once again, in some way, and if not we’ve always had the Internet, after all. Professional financing and marketing, etc., will often cause me a great deal of unwanted stress, which I prefer with not to do. I suffer from rare and comorbid mental health diagnoses, namely those within the schizophrenic and autistic spectrum. My mental illnesses have blessed me over the years with many creative gifts. So, with immense gratitude, I thank you, my muse, my wife, my students, and my family and friends without hesitation. Onward bound, as always.

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