The Fragmentation Podcast

22
Feb

Freak by Jonathan Harnisch

Ben Schreiber knew Wakefield Academy would be a disaster before he even arrived. It would be the same as his last school--the taunting, the judgment, the panic at being an all-too-obvious schizophrenic in a crowd of teenage brats hungry for a target. His fears are confirmed the moment he steps out of his parent's rusty car to the mocking sneers of his posh classmates. So what does Ben do? He retreats into himself, allowing the second being within his body to rise to consciousness--Georgie Gust, an angry, resentful, Tourette's-ridden personality, suspicious of everyone and trusting of none. Georgie navigates Wakefield campus within the smog of self-hate. He hates how his body twitches and his words betray him, hates how his odd walk brings cruel laughter, hates the stares that follow him when he tries to disappear. Georgie quickly attracts a crowd of tormenters lead by a cocky lacrosse player, Ozer. It's Claudia, however--Ozer's beautiful and troubled girlfriend--who captures Georgie's attention. Claudia alone does not join in with her friends' jeers, choosing instead to come to Georgie in friendship, her own demons lurking just beneath skin's surface. Though Georgie fights to believe no one can ever understand him, Claudia does. She is there when he drinks himself into a stupor every night and shows up for class hungover; she is there when he is harassed and beaten by their peers; she is there when his academic brilliance begins to gleam, nurtured by the support of the philosophy professor, Heidi. It is for fear of hurting Claudia that Georgie begins to care for himself; he stops drinking, throws out his cigarettes, and devotes himself to the pursuit of a prestigious scholarship. But nothing is ever so easy. As Georgie begins to heal beneath Claudia's warmth, he fails to see her own troubles. For how could someone so beautiful, smart, and well-liked know what suffering is? Surely, her problems run only so deep as her cheating boyfriend and exam stress. It is Heidi, the philosophy professor, who calls Georgie out on his selfishness. On the edge of a cliff, Heidi accuses Georgie of choosing hatred and isolation, of rejecting the love of others because hate is easier than accountability. Georgie both wants to be loved and desperately fears it. Georgie's defenses, while justified, are selfish ones, and they lead him to miss the warning signs in the one person he loves. One morning Claudia is gone, and it is Georgie who finds her broken body twisted in a tree on that same cliff where Heidi scolded him. So selfishly had he thought he was the only one with illness; she had understood him better than he ever knew. Claudia's death both destroys and saves him. It is for her that Georgie chooses to use his illness rather than hate it; for her, that he laughs at his absurdities instead of fall victim to them; for her that he opens his life and ultimately wins the scholarship. In the end, it is what Georgie thought impossible that leads him out of the darkness: acceptance. If only he'd recognized it before she chose to die.
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22
Feb

When We Were Invincible by Jonathan Harnisch

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.

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15
Feb

Lover in the Nobody by Jonathan Harnisch

Equal parts existential nihilism and fetishistic erotica, this darkly hypnotic novel--in which the lines between reality and delusion are hopelessly blurred--chronicles a mentally ill man's search for meaning in his life, or at least some kind of profound corporeal satisfaction.
Georgie Gust, who has Tourette's syndrome and may be schizophrenic, is also a hardcore masochist and foot fetishist and believes that finding the "everlasting orgasm" is what he needs to change his life. The son of independently wealthy parents, Gust has frequented kinky sex clubs for years without any real fulfillment. But when he becomes enamored with his next-door neighbor--a middle-aged paramedic named Claudia--he offers to pay her to be his torturer, his "personal trainer in pain."
But the fiery redhead takes her job a little too seriously and the humiliation quickly escalates to brutal, life-threatening assaults. His alluring dominatrix with the "perfect, long, skinny toes" is quickly transformed into a psychotic madwoman who is systematically destroying his life: "...that bitch, that whore, that woman I love and hate. She created a paradise and then set it aflame. She is my world and its end, my kinky sex goddess, my creepy-crawly nemesis."
The brilliance of this storyline--and it is brilliant--is in the author's use of the unreliable narrator. The novel begins with Gust in a psych ward after an apparent suicide attempt. As his story unfolds, the reader is introduced to Ben, who may be Gust's limo driver, a figment of his imagination, or an alter ego. The reader is never quite sure until the very end -- when a bombshell revelation turns the entire narrative upside down.
Lover in the Nobody is a poignant exploration into the world of mental illness that is simultaneously deeply disturbing and salaciously spellbinding. It is sure to resonate with readers long after the last page is turned.
-- BlueInk Review
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8
Feb

Porcelain Utopia by Jonathan Harnisch

BEN SCHREIBER suffers from a range of physical and psychiatric disorders, ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to narcissism, borderline personality, and schizoaffective disorder. He is hospitalized after a drug-crazed attempt at a bank robbery and is now under the care of Dr C, a female psychiatrist. Ben has little faith that psychiatric medicine will help him rid his mind of the delusions and hallucinations that his disorder presents, as it has done little for him thus far. He also knows that Dr C will not be treating him alone: He must introduce her to the cast of characters that share his brain, including Ben’s alter ego, GEORGIE GUST. Ben/Georgie are not classic “split” personalities: Georgie is a hallucination that springs from Ben’s disease and physically shares Ben’s life, making his symptoms even worse. Dr. C begins to suspect that Ben draws upon Georgie to help him avoid the bad memories that he has suppressed for his entire life and that underlie his post-traumatic stress and anxiety. She must try to get Ben to explore his relationship with Georgie, and the sexual fetishes that are triggered by CLAUDIA NESBITT, Georgie’s highly sexual and manipulative girlfriend, so that Ben can become once again the loving person he once was. She encourages Ben to talk about Georgie and Claudia in their sessions, and more importantly, to write about them as therapy. Ben discovers that writing gives him increasing freedom from the obsessive invasion of his thoughts by Georgie and Claudia and from his dreadful past memories that Dr C slowly uncovers. He begins to hope that converting Georgie to a literary character in the pages of an autobiographical novel will slowly remove him, along with Claudia, from Ben’s mind forever.

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4
Feb

Of Crime and Passion by Jonathan Harnisch

This is the story of John Marshall, an ambitious and troubled young man determined to climb to the top of New York high society while spreading chaos and misery in his wake. Raised in a household of drunken abuse, John has little hope of anything but a factory job. Then he has an intimate encounter with an enticing woman who gets everything she wants through seduction—and the experience changes John’s life. Stoking his hatred of the rich and powerful, he finds work in the homes of the wealthy as a private tutor, all the while seeking to win the love of their wives and daughters. The series of encounters that ensues builds to a storm of consequences as John strives for his envisioned future while racing to keep ahead of the past. Of Crime and Passion is a story of greed, lust, and the cost of getting ahead by any means.

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4
Feb

The Oxygen Tank by Jonathan Harnisch

Benjamin J. Schreiber has left rehab, but isn't out of the woods. His life, plagued by schizophrenic personalities and Tourette's, exists in series of maddening hallucinogenic episodes that combine his deepest insecurities with dark fantasies. In every one of these manic flashes, the same characters appear Georgie, the alter-ego living in Ben's body, and Claudia, the object of his twisted desires and destructive obsession. In his sickness, Ben writes to his psychiatrist, Dr. C., about these "schizophrenic blue-movie skits and sleazy hardcore porn-flicks", creating with his pen a disturbing window into the psychopathy that controls his every moment. The Oxygen Tank is a dark chronicle of one man's schizophrenia and obsession. In a way no other book on mental illness has done, it provides a direct tap into a disturbing reality (and lack thereof) that tangles love, obsession, hatred, desperation, fear, dominance, and the terrible need to be loved. 
00:0000:00
3
Feb

ALIBIOGRAPHY.COM

Envision a blend of a mentally ill mind with unsurpassed resiliency and fiery intellect and your result would be the brilliant Jonathan W. Harnisch. An all-around artist, Jonathan writes fiction and screenplays, sketches, imagines, and creates. His most recent artistic endeavor is developing music, a newly found passion with results already in the making. Produced filmmaker and published erotica author, Jonathan holds a myriad of accolades, and his works captivate the attention of those who experience them.
 
Manic-toned scripts with parallel lives, masochistic tendencies in sexual escapades, and disturbing clarities embellished with addiction, fetish, lust, and love are just a taste of what is to be found in Jonathan’s transgressive literature. In contrast, his award-winning films capture the ironies of life, love, self-acceptance, tragedy, and fantasy. Jonathan’s art evokes laughter and shock, elation and sadness, but above all it forces you to step back and question your own version of reality.
 
Scripts, screenplays, and schizophrenia are the defining factors of Jonathan’s life and reality—but surface labels are often incomplete. Jonathan is diagnosed with several mental illnesses, from schizoaffective disorder to Tourette’s syndrome; playfully, he dubs himself the “King of Mental Illness.” Despite daily symptomatic struggles and thoughts, Jonathan radiates an authentic, effervescent, and loving spirit. His resiliency emanates from the greatest lesson he’s learned: laughter. His diagnoses and life experiences encourage him to laugh at reality as others see it. Wildly eccentric, open-minded, passionate, and driven, Jonathan has a feral imagination. His inherent traits transpose to his art, making his works some of the most original and thought-provoking of the modern day.
 
Jonathan is an alumnus of Choate Rosemary Hall. Subsequently, he attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied film production and screenwriting under Gary Winick and David Irving. During his studies at NYU, he held internships under renowned producers Steven Haft and Ismael Merchant. He is best known for his short films On the Bus and Wax, both of which boast countless awards, including five Indie Film Awards, three Accolade Awards, and Best Short Film and Audience Awards at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, to name just a few.
 
Despite his impressive formal education and awarded honors, Jonathan is your normal, down-to-earth guy. Meditation, Duran Duran, vivid colors, Patrick Nagel prints, and rearranging furniture are some of his favorite things. Vices include cigarettes, Diet Coke, inappropriate swearing, and sausage and green chili pizza. He enjoys irony, planned spontaneity, redefining himself, and change. Jonathan lives with his beautiful wife, Maureen, on Fat Man Farms in the unique desert village of Corrales, New Mexico.



00:0000:00
2
Feb

Freak by Jonathan Harnisch

Ben Schreiber knew Wakefield Academy would be a disaster before he even arrived. It would be the same as his last school--the taunting, the judgment, the panic at being an all-too-obvious schizophrenic in a crowd of teenage brats hungry for a target. His fears are confirmed the moment he steps out of his parent's rusty car to the mocking sneers of his posh classmates. So what does Ben do? He retreats into himself, allowing the second being within his body to rise to consciousness--Georgie Gust, an angry, resentful, Tourette's-ridden personality, suspicious of everyone and trusting of none. Georgie navigates Wakefield campus within the smog of self-hate. He hates how his body twitches and his words betray him, hates how his odd walk brings cruel laughter, hates the stares that follow him when he tries to disappear. Georgie quickly attracts a crowd of tormenters lead by a cocky lacrosse player, Ozer. It's Claudia, however--Ozer's beautiful and troubled girlfriend--who captures Georgie's attention. Claudia alone does not join in with her friends' jeers, choosing instead to come to Georgie in friendship, her own demons lurking just beneath skin's surface. Though Georgie fights to believe no one can ever understand him, Claudia does. She is there when he drinks himself into a stupor every night and shows up for class hungover; she is there when he is harassed and beaten by their peers; she is there when his academic brilliance begins to gleam, nurtured by the support of the philosophy professor, Heidi. It is for fear of hurting Claudia that Georgie begins to care for himself; he stops drinking, throws out his cigarettes, and devotes himself to the pursuit of a prestigious scholarship. But nothing is ever so easy. As Georgie begins to heal beneath Claudia's warmth, he fails to see her own troubles. For how could someone so beautiful, smart, and well-liked know what suffering is? Surely, her problems run only so deep as her cheating boyfriend and exam stress. It is Heidi, the philosophy professor, who calls Georgie out on his selfishness. On the edge of a cliff, Heidi accuses Georgie of choosing hatred and isolation, of rejecting the love of others because hate is easier than accountability. Georgie both wants to be loved and desperately fears it. Georgie's defenses, while justified, are selfish ones, and they lead him to miss the warning signs in the one person he loves. One morning Claudia is gone, and it is Georgie who finds her broken body twisted in a tree on that same cliff where Heidi scolded him. So selfishly had he thought he was the only one with illness; she had understood him better than he ever knew. Claudia's death both destroys and saves him. It is for her that Georgie chooses to use his illness rather than hate it; for her, that he laughs at his absurdities instead of fall victim to them; for her that he opens his life and ultimately wins the scholarship. In the end, it is what Georgie thought impossible that leads him out of the darkness: acceptance. If only he'd recognized it before she chose to die.

00:0000:00