cannabis cuddles & conversation

24
May

The Big Flush (High-Definition)

In a public restroom, the camera pans the closed doors of 4 stalls; the first has an "out of order" sign on it. We hear a gaseous noise, and one by one, three musicians (a guitar player, a bass player, and a trumpet player all wearing tuxedos) flush the toilets and come out of the stalls revealing their musical instruments. Finally, the last to be disclosed is an old lady, Pat (from the "out of order" stall). She goes to wash her hands and is shocked to find in the mirror that behind her, the three musicians, wondering where all the noise came from-- herself or the musicians.


24
May

The Sitter (High-Definition)

What lengths will a couple go to just for a night out?


24
May

Ten Years (High-Definition)

After ten years of separation, former prep school sweethearts meet coincidentally and discuss their hopes and dreams together in Long Island, New York. They spend the night together but move in their separate ways by the morning as they struggle with inner conflicts.


24
May

Wax (High-Definition)

George wanders into a wax museum on the exhibit's last day. The museum comes alive. The mood turns steamy as different fantasies come into play. A sobering sense of the inevitable begins to emerge. He's getting married, but to whom?


24
May

On the Bus (High-Definition)

Larry, alone and disheveled, walks the streets then boards a city bus, where he proceeds to disturb the passengers with his erratic behavior and verbal outbursts. Disturbing the passengers doesn’t really concern Larry, as one-by-one they each disappear, and Larry finds himself off the bus and in the office of a psychologist, who pushes for information, asking again and again if anything “out of the ordinary” happened on the bus. But for Larry, everything -- on the bus and off -- is completely “out of the ordinary,” and he can’t answer. He can only remember. What he had. What he lost. What he'll never have again. And so he will walk the streets, ride the bus, bother the passengers. Grieving for eternity.


10
May

The Dreamer Sleeps Without Dreaming, Part Two of Two [Audiobook] Podcast

Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true. There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make; you can destroy your life every time you choose. But maybe you won't know for thirty years. And you may never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce. And they say there is no fate, but there is: it's what you create. And even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes, or it seems to, but it doesn't really. And so you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along. Something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel whole, something to make you feel loved. And the truth is I feel so angry, and the truth is I feel so sad, and the truth is I've felt so hurt for so long and for just as long I've been pretending I'm OK, just to get along, just for, I don't know why, maybe because no one wants to hear about my misery, because they have their own. Noted severely self-loathing and seriously mentally ill author Jonathan Harnisch loses his mind once again through the written word offering his fifteenth literary disaster. The experience of reading this novel, The Dreamer Sleeps Without Dreaming, is similar in its nature to an eerie sensation of savoir-faire as one observes a dog having a bowel movement. For those who've adored Harnisch's epic novels, from Pastiche to his other fourteen literary works, this example of anti-art deserves nothing short of scathing criticism.

10
May

The Dreamer Sleeps Without Dreaming, Part One of Two [Audiobook] Podcast

Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true. There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make; you can destroy your life every time you choose. But maybe you won't know for thirty years. And you may never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce. And they say there is no fate, but there is: it's what you create. And even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes, or it seems to, but it doesn't really. And so you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along. Something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel whole, something to make you feel loved. And the truth is I feel so angry, and the truth is I feel so sad, and the truth is I've felt so hurt for so long and for just as long I've been pretending I'm OK, just to get along, just for, I don't know why, maybe because no one wants to hear about my misery, because they have their own. Noted severely self-loathing and seriously mentally ill author Jonathan Harnisch loses his mind once again through the written word offering his fifteenth literary disaster. The experience of reading this novel, The Dreamer Sleeps Without Dreaming, is similar in its nature to an eerie sensation of savoir-faire as one observes a dog having a bowel movement. For those who've adored Harnisch's epic novels, from Pastiche to his other fourteen literary works, this example of anti-art deserves nothing short of scathing criticism.

5
May

Pastiche, Part Four of Four [Audiobook] Podcast

"Be a doer and not a critic," Tony Blair once said. Pastiche, it is, in response to the heavily criticized and controversial author Jonathan Harnisch's (Porcelain Utopia, 2016, etc.) work and life. He offers this colossal work of erotic literary art that mixes styles, materials, etc., wildly varied in style and content. "I am a troubled man," the author confesses, "with feelings. I am not good, but I know how to be good. I burn bridges and build better ones. I can’t make my mind up because my mental landscape is full of wondrous things! I can love, and I am learning to be in love with myself. I don't know how to trust, but I trust I am alive. I make more mistakes than I should so I am continually learning. I am always sorry, and I always forgive myself. I never change and yet I feel changes. I am afraid of letting anyone else in my life too close and yet I find I'm not running away because I am curious. The door to my life is open because I am genuine and authentic and real. People will come and go, and I am blessed that I have known them. The door is too big for it to be blocked by anything that wants to flow free, and the current of life that goes through it pulls with it all its uncertainty." Pastiche is one of the most disconnected, confused intentionally unedited literary masterpieces of independent writer Harnisch's untamed career, exploring its readers to the flighty, turbulent and often disturbing schizophrenic thought patterns, which the disorder presents. The author also struggles with schizophrenia. “I don't think writing is therapeutic. It's real hard for me. It's not an enjoyable process,” Harnisch admits.
4
May

Pastiche, Part Three of Four [Audiobook] Podcast

"Be a doer and not a critic," Tony Blair once said. Pastiche, it is, in response to the heavily criticized and controversial author Jonathan Harnisch's (Porcelain Utopia, 2016, etc.) work and life. He offers this colossal work of erotic literary art that mixes styles, materials, etc., wildly varied in style and content. "I am a troubled man," the author confesses, "with feelings. I am not good, but I know how to be good. I burn bridges and build better ones. I can’t make my mind up because my mental landscape is full of wondrous things! I can love, and I am learning to be in love with myself. I don't know how to trust, but I trust I am alive. I make more mistakes than I should so I am continually learning. I am always sorry, and I always forgive myself. I never change and yet I feel changes. I am afraid of letting anyone else in my life too close and yet I find I'm not running away because I am curious. The door to my life is open because I am genuine and authentic and real. People will come and go, and I am blessed that I have known them. The door is too big for it to be blocked by anything that wants to flow free, and the current of life that goes through it pulls with it all its uncertainty." Pastiche is one of the most disconnected, confused intentionally unedited literary masterpieces of independent writer Harnisch's untamed career, exploring its readers to the flighty, turbulent and often disturbing schizophrenic thought patterns, which the disorder presents. The author also struggles with schizophrenia. “I don't think writing is therapeutic. It's real hard for me. It's not an enjoyable process,” Harnisch admits.
4
May

Pastiche, Part Two of Four [Audiobook] Podcast

"Be a doer and not a critic," Tony Blair once said. Pastiche, it is, in response to the heavily criticized and controversial author Jonathan Harnisch's (Porcelain Utopia, 2016, etc.) work and life. He offers this colossal work of erotic literary art that mixes styles, materials, etc., wildly varied in style and content. "I am a troubled man," the author confesses, "with feelings. I am not good, but I know how to be good. I burn bridges and build better ones. I can’t make my mind up because my mental landscape is full of wondrous things! I can love, and I am learning to be in love with myself. I don't know how to trust, but I trust I am alive. I make more mistakes than I should so I am continually learning. I am always sorry, and I always forgive myself. I never change and yet I feel changes. I am afraid of letting anyone else in my life too close and yet I find I'm not running away because I am curious. The door to my life is open because I am genuine and authentic and real. People will come and go, and I am blessed that I have known them. The door is too big for it to be blocked by anything that wants to flow free, and the current of life that goes through it pulls with it all its uncertainty." Pastiche is one of the most disconnected, confused intentionally unedited literary masterpieces of independent writer Harnisch's untamed career, exploring its readers to the flighty, turbulent and often disturbing schizophrenic thought patterns, which the disorder presents. The author also struggles with schizophrenia. “I don't think writing is therapeutic. It's real hard for me. It's not an enjoyable process,” Harnisch admits.

4
May

Pastiche, Part One of Four [Audiobook] Podcast

"Be a doer and not a critic," Tony Blair once said. Pastiche, it is, in response to the heavily criticized and controversial author Jonathan Harnisch's (Porcelain Utopia, 2016, etc.) work and life. He offers this colossal work of erotic literary art that mixes styles, materials, etc., wildly varied in style and content. "I am a troubled man," the author confesses, "with feelings. I am not good, but I know how to be good. I burn bridges and build better ones. I can’t make my mind up because my mental landscape is full of wondrous things! I can love, and I am learning to be in love with myself. I don't know how to trust, but I trust I am alive. I make more mistakes than I should so I am continually learning. I am always sorry, and I always forgive myself. I never change and yet I feel changes. I am afraid of letting anyone else in my life too close and yet I find I'm not running away because I am curious. The door to my life is open because I am genuine and authentic and real. People will come and go, and I am blessed that I have known them. The door is too big for it to be blocked by anything that wants to flow free, and the current of life that goes through it pulls with it all its uncertainty." Pastiche is one of the most disconnected, confused intentionally unedited literary masterpieces of independent writer Harnisch's untamed career, exploring its readers to the flighty, turbulent and often disturbing schizophrenic thought patterns, which the disorder presents. The author also struggles with schizophrenia. “I don't think writing is therapeutic. It's real hard for me. It's not an enjoyable process,” Harnisch admits.
30
Apr

Lover in the Nobody [Audiobook]

A young man battling extreme mental illness brings his sadomasochistic fantasies to life in Harnisch's (Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia, 2014, etc.) latest novel. As this riveting story opens, Georgie Gust, a suicidal Tourette's syndrome patient, tells his doctor he wants to leave the mental institution where he's been committed. When the doctor puts him off, Gust finds himself buffeted by violent fantasies of escape, and he even prepares to hang himself. The novel plunges readers into the mind of a man at war with his own urges, memories, and sexual obsessions. After a scene shift, Gust's chauffeur, Ben, delivers him to his empty home, where Margaret, his only friend, visits to check on him. However, she annoys him because "she seems to care." Later, Gust, a foot fetishist, gives a pedicure to his sexy neighbor, Claudia, in a scene lit with unexpected poetry and poignancy. As the narrative viewpoint flickers among Gust, Ben, and a quasi-omniscient third-person perspective, Gust's voracious appetite for pain prompts him to hire Claudia to torment him. (He has wealthy parents, so he spends cash liberally.) When Claudia's house goes up in flames, she moves in with him, and their sadomasochistic bond descends into extraordinary, hallucinatory violence. In Claudia's hands, Gust discovers new depths of masochism, and she finds joy in tormenting him. Despite the garishness, brutality, and squalor of many passages (which are not for the squeamish), more sophisticated readers will appreciate the extraordinary feat Harnisch has accomplished. He lucidly, poignantly conveys a mind riven with what are, after all, human vulnerabilities: mental pathologies, shameful fantasies, anguished doubts about the natures of reality, love, and memory. In the hands of a lesser writer, these themes would splinter the narrative. Fortunately, the author masters his material; readers will believe the voices that vivify it and compassionately wish them to find the healing that eludes them. An extraordinary, harrowing odyssey into an embattled self, full of humor, compassion, and a rare understanding of mental illness.

30
Apr

Living Colorful Beauty [Audiobook]

Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride. In Living Colorful Beauty, author Jonathan Harnisch tells the story of Ben, a man diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, schizoaffective disorder, and several other issues. Ever since his youth, Ben has been both plagued by mental illness and obsessed with venality. As he navigates through an unstable, directionless life and leaves a string of shattered romances in his wake, he generates a fictional character, Georgie Gust, to deal with his many paraphilias and neuroses. But with the introduction of a new psychotherapist, Ben may have a chance to let go of his doppelgänger as well as his overwhelming insecurity. Though the book is saturated with Ben's sexuality, its prevailing theme is actually his struggle to come to terms with his mental health. The entire book reads like a Freudian therapy session, so the ultimate resolution of Ben's problems is appropriate. Ben's internal creative process is integral to the book's effectiveness, since much of the psychoanalysis Ben receives seems to come from himself through the lens of his fictional creation, Georgie. The book features an almost claustrophobic amount of navel-gazing, which may be intentional. At times, the reading experience leaves no doubt as to how the book's main character could drive himself crazy with his recursive, obsessive self-examination. Ben and Georgie have an interesting and nuanced relationship. At times Ben seems completely unable to control his double while simultaneously being one with him. He often reassures himself that his creation is the inferior man, citing Georgie's pumpkin-like body as the reason that nobody will ever want him. On the other hand, of the two of them, Georgie seems to have the more active love life. Ben reaches for emotional intimacy through relationship after relationship, but his illness, issues with women, and physical demands--the Georgie in him--constantly hamper his progress. As the narrator, Ben's point of view colors all of the other characters. Several of these, in addition to Georgie, are or may be fictional, mere expressions of Ben's illness. This is especially true of the women in Ben's life. There are comparatively very few men in this story, but the women are usually of a seductive and even predatory type. Ben aggressively sizes up the ladies he knows, from his girlfriends to his therapist, in terms of their attractiveness, perhaps in an attempt to balance the scales, since in his own perception, women are domineering copies of his own terrifying mother. Part of Ben's evolution is to move toward a valuing of women beyond his mother issues, a satisfying direction for this character to travel. Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride that ends on a hopeful note. It may interest fans of Charles Bukowski and Tom Robbins.

30
Apr

When We Were Invincible [Audiobook]

A boarding school student with Tourette's syndrome looks for the meaning of life in this offbeat novella. This is recommended to fans of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. When We Were Invincible details the experiences of Georgie Gust at the fictional St. Michael's Academy, a prestigious East Coast boarding school. In the vein of Catcher in the Rye, the novella focuses on Georgie's sense of isolation and feelings of otherness as he navigates his world while suffering from Tourette's Syndrome and early onset schizophrenia. Although the two disorders set Georgie apart from the rest of his classmates, they do not deter Claudia from pursuing a relationship with him. Seeing Georgie as more than a series of tics, Claudia recognizes him for the unconventional intellectual that he is, and together they explore a number of theological and philosophical questions that defy neat and simple answers. Nevertheless, Georgie and Claudia's encounters, whether they take place wandering illicitly off campus at night, through letters and emails, or simply in the hallways and classrooms of their school, have the power to change them both forever.

9
Apr

Lover in the Nobody [Leprechaun Podcast]

A young man battling extreme mental illness brings his sadomasochistic fantasies to life in Harnisch's (Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia, 2014, etc.) latest novel....The novel plunges readers into the mind of a man at war with its own urges, memories, and sexual obsessions... Despite the garishness, brutality, and squalor of many passages ... sophisticated readers will appreciate the extraordinary feat Harnisch has accomplished.... An extraordinary, harrowing odyssey into an embattled self, full of humor, compassion, and a rare understanding of mental illness. -Kirkus Reviews 

9
Apr

Living Colorful Beauty [Leprechaun Podcast]

At the opening of Living Colorful Beauty, the reader is presented with two protagonists. There’s Ben, the narrator of the preface, who relates the story of the awful sex education classes he sat through in middle school and of his subsequent discovery of his father’s collection of pornography; and then there’s Georgie, a sexual submissive with a foot fetish, who is obsessed with his beautiful and manipulative next-door neighbor Claudia. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that Georgie and Ben share a single three-dimensional body. Georgie is a character in a novel Ben is writing, and Ben maintains that Georgie is in fact no more than a literary device. However, it is clear almost immediately that this is not the case. Throughout his life, Ben has received a number of psychiatric diagnoses, ranging from Tourette’s Syndrome to borderline personality disorder to schizoaffective disorder, and he displays some traits of all of these. Yet amid all these diagnoses, the one thing that seems to have slipped under the radar thus far is his tendency towards emotional dissociation, which is closely related to post-traumatic stress syndrome. It is this dissociative tendency that has led Ben to create Georgie, a safe repository for the emotions and desires – primarily sexual – that Ben himself is unable to process. Initially, therefore, the life of Ben and Georgie is fairly well ordered. It is clear from the start that Ben has issues relating to women: his romantic life has been a string of broken relationships and missed opportunities, and though he needs love desperately he finds himself overcome by fear around women. Whenever this issue arises, Ben retreats into Georgie’s relationship with Claudia. Claudia is compelling, manipulative, emotionally abusive, and tremendously sensual. She controls Georgie completely, only allowing him sex at certain times, alternately telling him she loves him and that she couldn’t care less about him, telling him she won’t sleep with him and then inviting him to watch her sleep with other men and other women. Yet Georgie is inextricably drawn to her, accepting all of the emotional pain that comes with his relationship with her as long as he can continue to hope that she may sleep with him again. The sex they share is gritty and fetish-laden, with strong overtones of sadomasochism and violence, and their relationship itself is sustained entirely by Georgie’s obsession. Yet he is unable to let Claudia go. Similarly, Ben claims that Georgie’s relationship with Claudia is based on his own relationship with Heidi – yet as the story progresses, we learn that Heidi is a lesbian whom Ben met once some months ago when she was in town for a conference, and that after one night, she left town and Ben had never heard from her again. In Ben’s relationship with Heidi, mirrored in his imagining of Georgie’s relationship with Claudia, it is clear that his interest is not in Heidi but rather in the image of Heidi, which, in the absence of the real Heidi, Ben can mold into whatever he needs her to be. Heidi is the locus of Ben’s obsession, as Claudia is the locus of Georgie’s; however, the root of these obsessive tendencies lies somewhere else entirely.
9
Apr

When We Were Invincible [Leprechaun Podcast]

A boarding school student with Tourette's syndrome looks for the meaning of life in this offbeat novella. This is recommended to fans of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. When We Were Invincible details the experiences of Georgie Gust at the fictional St. Michael’s Academy, a prestigious East Coast boarding school. In the vein of Catcher in the Rye, the novella focuses on Georgie’s sense of isolation and feelings of otherness as he navigates his world while suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome and early onset schizophrenia. Although the two disorders set Georgie apart from the rest of his classmates, they do not deter Claudia from pursuing a relationship with him. Seeing Georgie as more than a series of tics, Claudia recognizes him for the unconventional intellectual that he is, and together they explore a number of theological and philosophical questions that defy neat and simple answers. Nevertheless, Georgie and Claudia’s encounters, whether they take place wandering illicitly off campus at night, through letters and emails, or simply in the hallways and classrooms of their school, have the power to change them both forever.
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.
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.

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
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.

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.

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. 
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.



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.

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
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
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.

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.


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.


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.


28
Dec

Lover in the Nobody First Edition by Jonathan Harnisch (Best-Selling Fiction Author)

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
28
Dec

Starred Book Review of Lover in the Nobody by Jonathan Harnisch

STARRED REVIEW
Lover in the Nobody
Jonathan Harnisch
CreateSpace, 174 pages, (paperback) $9.99, 978-1505562460 (Reviewed: December, 2015)
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
28
Dec

When We Were Invincible Paperback Second Edition

Written in the vein of Catcher in the Rye or The World According to Garp, Jonathan Harnisch’s When We Were Invincible is a coming-of-age novella, which details the experiences of outsider Georgie Gust navigating the fictional St. Michael’s Academy, a prestigious East Coast boarding school. Georgie suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome and early onset schizophrenia, which makes his journey all the more poignant.

28
Dec

The Brutal Truth Paperback First Edition

Jonathan Harnisch is an “artist, dreamer, man on a mission, and human being just like you.” He is also “a deeply troubled and disturbed person,” who lives with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. He is committed to sharing his unique life online in order to help others. Through a relentless, direct encounter with his schizophrenic self and thoughts, Harnisch offers a rare insight into this often misunderstood disorder. Extraordinarily, the message is one of resilience and hope, finding rare wisdom through enduring and learning to understand his psychotic episodes. Rather than retreating into his own troubles, Harnisch journeys inside himself in order to understand the humanity that he shares with others: “The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others do not know anything about.” For all its fearless honesty, The Brutal Truth is throughout an affirmation of life. As Harnisch says, “I write and publish what I want and what I feel, no matter what mood or state of mind I am in, but I always do my best to keep things positive.” After all, he knows that he is “a legitimate, loving, grateful, and spiritual human being who deserves to be loved and accepted and who deserves to make decisions, to make mistakes, and to be forgiven.” The Brutal Truth shows that it is by acknowledging the schizophrenic experience that we can come to understand and deal with it. Harnisch’s essays offer daring descriptions of what it is like to live—moment upon moment—with schizophrenia. These essays are written to help others undergoing mental disorders. They will also help those who want to better understand what their loved ones are going through so that they can help them more effectively and more compassionately. But these essays are not just for those affected by psychiatric disorders. All readers will feel enriched after spending time with Harnisch in this extraordinary and too often untold schizophrenic world. As Harnisch says, “We schizophrenics, through our psychosis—our delusions, our hallucinations, our reality—create or develop a story.” Seldom has the schizophrenic story been told with such unflinching honesty and truth.

28
Dec

Living Colorful Beauty Paperback Second Edition

Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride. 

In Living Colorful Beauty, author Jonathan Harnisch tells the story of Ben, a man diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, schizoaffective disorder, and several other issues. Ever since his youth, Ben has been both plagued by mental illness and obsessed with venality. As he navigates through an unstable, directionless life and leaves a string of shattered romances in his wake, he generates a fictional character, Georgie Gust, to deal with his many paraphilias and neuroses. But with the introduction of a new psychotherapist, Ben may have a chance to let go of his doppelgänger as well as his overwhelming insecurity. 

Though the book is saturated with Ben's sexuality, its prevailing theme is actually his struggle to come to terms with his mental health. The entire book reads like a Freudian therapy session, so the ultimate resolution of Ben's problems is appropriate. Ben's internal creative process is integral to the book's effectiveness, since much of the psychoanalysis Ben receives seems to come from himself through the lens of his fictional creation, Georgie. The book features an almost claustrophobic amount of navel-gazing, which may be intentional. At times, the reading experience leaves no doubt as to how the book's main character could drive himself crazy with his recursive, obsessive self-examination. 

Ben and Georgie have an interesting and nuanced relationship. At times Ben seems completely unable to control his double while simultaneously being one with him. He often reassures himself that his creation is the inferior man, citing Georgie's pumpkin-like body as the reason that nobody will ever want him. On the other hand, of the two of them, Georgie seems to have the more active love life. Ben reaches for emotional intimacy through relationship after relationship, but his illness, issues with women, and physical demands--the Georgie in him--constantly hamper his progress. 

As the narrator, Ben's point of view colors all of the other characters. Several of these, in addition to Georgie, are or may be fictional, mere expressions of Ben's illness. This is especially true of the women in Ben's life. There are comparatively very few men in this story, but the women are usually of a seductive and even predatory type. Ben aggressively sizes up the ladies he knows, from his girlfriends to his therapist, in terms of their attractiveness, perhaps in an attempt to balance the scales, since in his own perception, women are domineering copies of his own terrifying mother. Part of Ben's evolution is to move toward a valuing of women beyond his mother issues, a satisfying direction for this character to travel. 

Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride that ends on a hopeful note. It may interest fans of Charles Bukowski and Tom Robbins. 

ANNA CALL (November 19, 2015) 
-- Foreword Clarion Reviews
20
Dec

Second Alibi - The Genius of a Mentally Ill Mind

Second Alibi: The Banality of Life by Jonathan Harnisch
 
From Arts & Entertainment
"Genius. I loved this book."
 
From Worldnews Network
"This story is now shedding light on the experiences of schizophrenics in a language that the non-sufferer can understand."
 
From WOWK 13 News, W.Va, WV
"Harnisch's sense of the inner machinations of human experience spring into life through the text." 
 
From Editor, Second Alibi: The Banality of Life 
"My brain was spinning by the end. It's brilliant."
 
What...is it like to suffer from...schizophrenia combined with...Tourette's syndrome? ...[Harnisch's] answers to such questions and the ways in which they are portrayed prove complex. Mixing diary entries...with a screenplay...messages are often jumbled though not without merit, [as] when the narrator announces that "I had a paranoid spell last night. [My wife] was texting me, and I was convinced that it was my stepmother impersonating my wife." Wildly varied in style and content, making for an informative and strange trip through the experience of mental disorders.
-- Kirkus Reviews [Print Magazine Featured Book]
 
Afflicted with schizophrenia, Tourette's Syndrome and other mental illnesses, the prolific and gifted Jonathan Harnisch has transformed the harrowing raw material of his life into what he calls "transgressive fiction" in semi-autobiographical novels such as Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography and Living Colorful Beauty. With Second Alibi: The Banality of Life, he revisits the abrasive, triangular psychodrama of his brilliant, questing psychotic Ben Schreiber, Ben's libertine alter-ego, Georgie Gust, and the sadistic temptress, Claudia Nesbitt, who torments them both, while also including a moving plea for understanding that stands apart from the disturbed fevers of his fiction. 
This is a story, I hope, about my coming to enlightenment," Harnisch writes, and in that vein he enlightens us, too, about the fantastic terrors of schizophrenia: "What this life is like with the ups and the downs, the confusion, the love and the hate; the black and the white." He tells us about his moods abruptly shifting 25 times in an hour, his suicide attempts and addictions, the grim realities of sleep deprivation and the fear that his beloved wife has been reading his mind. 
Second Alibi toggles unpredictably between semi-coherent rage (Harnisch says he often writes when symptomatic) and cool detachment, and it deploys several forms: Harnisch's sexually-charged fiction (Claudia is "a slow-moving serpent with a tongue of fire and the ass of a bombshell"); a 106-page screenplay featuring dialogues between Ben and his old antagonists, and with his life-saving therapist, "Dr. C"; self-lacerating entries from "Georgie Gust's" 2005 diary, and the author's clear explanations of his condition, apparently written at moments when his symptoms have subsided. 
At times, Harnisch is energized by the very power of his illness. "The mind and the sickness is all so sublime," he writes, "the heart of living, colorful beauty." But in his most lucid moments, this brave and eloquent writer struggles mightily to escape the dark woods of madness: "As always, my journey continues, on and on."
-- BlueInk Review
 
Harnisch's words and images dance vividly and repeat themselves in strange succession; even his most self-conscious writing has rhythmic energy and flair.
Jonathan Harnisch doesn't so much showcase literary genius as he grapples with it in his experimental autobiography, Second Alibi: The Banality of Life. Genius is a creative spirit he chases. When he gets his hands on it, when genius possesses him, the results are stunning. Parts of Second Alibi radiate with originality.
With a self-referential postmodern style reminiscent of William Burroughs, Harnisch chronicles his hell-bent search for personal truth. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental disorders, he explores all aspects of his personality: his alter ego, Ben; his alter ego's alter ego, Georgie; and their mutual love interest, Claudia. Harnisch wrangles to the page episodes of madness and lucidity, hospitalizations, hallucinations, love affairs. He searches every experience for meaning, sometimes exhaustively, and offers up whatever truth he can.
If there's fault in Harnisch's methodology, it's that he overanalyzes and micromanages his own creative process. For example, the book's third act flounders in a sea of platitudinous journal entries about living with mental illness, the writing process, the progress of his manuscript, and his ultimate aspirations as a writer. Although well-intentioned, the entries become preening and laborious. At one point, the author admits, "I feel like I am forcing this writing."
The book's first and second acts are much stronger--the first relayed in stream-of-consciousness passages, and the second in the form of a screenplay. In the first act, Harnisch produces the stuff of poetry. His words and images dance vividly and repeat themselves in strange succession: "The living, colorful sound of the mysterious telephone still haunts us, even me. It rings and rings, again and again." In these passages, even his most self-conscious writing has rhythmic energy and flair: "The sensation of sensational sex and blue movies, the characters and chaos, onslaughts of sketches, prototypes ... of expanding pounding putty and pus, some sex and violence. I'm built for it."
The second act, the screenplay, offers the book's most absorbing and sharply written drama. Harnisch appears to be a natural in the medium, exploring past trauma through scene and dialogue. The screenplay ends with amazing profundity. "And sometimes you just have to listen to the sounds of your life," Ben says. "That kind of silence. That deep remarkable hollow stuff."
Second Alibi provides an honest window into the "hollow stuff." Harnisch is at his best, though, when he leaves his inner critic behind and allows his creativity to color the world around him.
-- Foreword Clarion Reviews
 
 

20
Dec

Second Alibi | The Banality of Life by Jonathan Harnisch | Preview

Jonathan Harnisch's struggles with his mental health conditions are interlinked with the incomprehension of non-sufferers, which provokes him to explain his reality. He has explored a range of media, including film, music, and now the written word, to help the general public understand exactly what it feels like to suffer from schizophrenia. By fictionalizing the day-to-day meetings of multiple personalities, he is illuminating a corner of psychiatry that few understand. As an author with schizophrenia, Jonathan Harnisch is ideally placed to share the unusual perception commonly defined as 'mental illness'. Harnisch is not dealing with an altered reality, but a double reality. His main characters, Ben Schreiber and Georgie Gust, perfectly illustrate how two lives can share the same body.

20
Dec

SECOND ALIBI JONATHAN HARNISCH | FINÁLE | TIME. THE END. RATHER, NO END…

Jonathan Harnisch's struggles with his mental health conditions are interlinked with the incomprehension of non-sufferers, which provokes him to explain his reality. He has explored a range of media, including film, music, and now the written word, to help the general public understand exactly what it feels like to suffer from schizophrenia. By fictionalizing the day-to-day meetings of multiple personalities, he is illuminating a corner of psychiatry that few understand. As an author with schizophrenia, Jonathan Harnisch is ideally placed to share the unusual perception commonly defined as 'mental illness'. Harnisch is not dealing with an altered reality, but a double reality. His main characters, Ben Schreiber and Georgie Gust, perfectly illustrate how two lives can share the same body.

19
Dec

INTRODUCING LIVING COLORFUL BEAUTY BY JONATHAN HARNISCH

INTRODUCING LIVING COLORFUL BEAUTY BY JONATHAN HARNISCH (AUTHOR) PAPERBACK – OCTOBER 19, 2015 | EDITORIAL BOOK REVIEWS | RATING: 5 STARS - BOOK REVIEW BY ANNA CALL https://www.forewordreviews.com/rev…/living-colorful-beauty/
Genre: Literary › Mental Health › Schizophrenia
Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride.
In Living Colorful Beauty, author Jonathan Harnisch tells the story of Ben, a man diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, schizoaffective disorder, and several other issues. Ever since his youth, Ben has been both plagued by mental illness and obsessed with venality. As he navigates through an unstable, directionless life and leaves a string of shattered romances in his wake, he generates a fictional character, Georgie Gust, to deal with his many paraphilias and neuroses. But with the introduction of a new psychotherapist, Ben may have a chance to let go of his doppelgänger as well as his overwhelming insecurity.
Though the book is saturated with Ben's sexuality, its prevailing theme is actually his struggle to come to terms with his mental health. The entire book reads like a Freudian therapy session, so the ultimate resolution of Ben's problems is appropriate. Ben's internal creative process is integral to the book's effectiveness, since much of the psychoanalysis Ben receives seems to come from himself through the lens of his fictional creation, Georgie. The book features an almost claustrophobic amount of of navel-gazing, which may be intentional. At times, the reading experience leaves no doubt as to how the book's main character could drive himself crazy with his recursive, obsessive self-examination.
Ben and Georgie have an interesting and nuanced relationship. At times Ben seems completely unable to control his double while simultaneously being one with him. He often reassures himself that his creation is the inferior man, citing Georgie's pumpkin-like body as the reason that nobody will ever want him. On the other hand, of the two of them, Georgie seems to have the more active love life. Ben reaches for emotional intimacy through relationship after relationship, but his illness, issues with women, and physical demands--the Georgie in him--constantly hamper his progress.
As the narrator, Ben's point of view colors all of the other characters. Several of these, in addition to Georgie, are or may be fictional, mere expressions of Ben's illness. This is especially true of the women in Ben's life. There are comparatively very few men in this story, but the women are usually of a seductive and even predatory type. Ben aggressively sizes up the ladies he knows, from his girlfriends to his therapist, in terms of their attractiveness, perhaps in an attempt to balance the scales, since in his own perception, women are domineering copies of his own terrifying mother. Part of Ben's evolution is to move toward a valuing of women beyond his mother issues, a satisfying direction for this character to travel.
Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride that ends on a hopeful note. It may interest fans of Charles Bukowski and Tom Robbins.
ANNA CALL (November 19, 2015)
-- Foreword Clarion Reviews
This short novel by New Mexico writer Jonathan Harnisch features the same urgent anguish—and the same disturbing characters—as the author’s 803-page, semi-autobiographical rampage through sexual obsession, schizophrenia and healing, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography. Good news: Living Colorful Beauty stands on its own, serving as a vivid introduction to this gifted, if flawed, writer’s teeming mind.
In 30-year-old Benjamin J. Schreiber, who suffers (like Harnisch) from schizoaffective disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome, the author has created a brilliant and memorable psychotic. In reckless Georgie Gust, he delivers a convincing alter-ego to whom Ben can transfer “my confessionary details, my sins, my fetishes.” As in Alibiography, their destructive common fantasy is the cruel, manipulative siren Claudia Nesbitt. Their possible salvation? An insightful shrink called Dr. C.
Once again, Harnisch’s prose is simultaneously original and confusing: ”the words in my head have turned to salad,” Ben tells us, but “my imagination’s on fire.” Careening between New York and Southern California, and even more wildly between the searing traumas of Ben’s childhood and the perilous uncertainties of his present, the narrative reveals a tormented soul who is “merely a spy, an observer, into the world of my hallucinations” but who can sometimes make peace with his demons. “Let me lose my mind,” Ben muses. “Fuck it. I’m going out for a walk on the beach. The beach is a block away. The voices in my head are raging. They’re calling me a winner.”
For Harnisch, who playfully calls himself “the king of mental illness,” writing fiction is clearly therapeutic. An editor character tells Ben: “The problem though is that your reader cannot possibly follow your train of thought,” and that’s often our problem, too. But the authenticity of Harnisch’s voice bursts through the tangles and repetitions of his language. He’s the real thing.
-- BlueInk Review
List Price: $8.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.
15
Dec

ON THE BUS ON TV

ON THE BUS ON TV
I invite you to watch the last rerun of my Academy Award (Oscar®) qualifying short film, the noted award-winning psychological thriller, On the Bus. It plays live on prime time TV with me, for the first time this weekend! It is now live on Vimeo Pro as well. I am so proud! Wax showed twice that day and On the Bus aired 3 times, along with yet another television show I did, also on frequent reruns. If a schizophrenic can do it, anyone can! THANK YOU! —Jonathan Harnisch smile emoticon
‘Award-winning executive producer and screenwriter, Jonathan Harnisch's first viewing, reaction and commentary of his Academy Award (Oscar®) Qualifying psychological thriller, On the Bus on live on DIRECTV®.’
Distributed worldwide by Shorts International. In the vein of Christopher Nolan’s MEMENTO comes ON THE BUS (2015) Fat Man Media’s psychological thriller about the experiences of Larry (Mark Schrier), a mentally disturbed man, who rides a bus and bothers passengers based on recent circumstances in his life. The film’s surprise ending startles the audience and ties the fragmented story together to a dramatic conclusion. Harnisch's WAX & ON THE BUS TV channels available w/ AT&T HD PREMIER TIER PACKAGE and can be viewed on Channel 1789. Otherwise DIRECTV® HD EXTRA PACK and can be viewed on Channel 568.
About Jonathan Harnisch:
Initially diagnosed with depression in 1994 at the age of 18, I was prescribed antidepressants, including the newest of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Unfortunately, these triggered mania, and to combat this, I began to drink, which intensified my psychological instability and led to an addiction that I was finally able to overcome when I was 26.
However, as difficult as the disorders have been, in many ways, I have been blessed. Many call me a gifted artist, and I have frequently used my art to exorcise my own demons of isolation and loneliness. In 1998, I dramatized those issues in my award-winning film, Ten Years, which I produced, directed, and wrote while attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
In 2008, I once again dramatized those themes of isolation and loneliness in another award-winning film, On the Bus, which, in addition, explores the horrors and chaos of mental illness. Through the eyes of the main character Larry, we see the uncontrollable, tumultuous symptoms of schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as brought on by a random act of violence.
A single act of violence rarely causes severe mental illness. Current research indicates that such illness is generally a result of a genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors. My case would seem to validate that research, as there is a history of mental illness in my family, and I have suffered repeated trauma. Whatever the genesis, beginning in 2009 and culminating in the summer of 2010, I experienced a severe psychotic episode that manifested in inappropriate, violent outbursts and regnant destructive behavior. Ultimately, however, this episode brought me the help I needed, including a comprehensive psychological work-up that provided an accurate diagnosis and the right medication. Now, psychologically stable, I invite others to behold my candid daily encounters with the symptoms of schizophrenia.
In the past, I have been known to willingly and genuinely share my life. In the same vein as prolific figures such as Elyn R. Saks, Kay Redfield Jamison, and Oliver Sacks, I continue to illustrate my personal ongoing struggle with chronic mental illness nurturing truth, acceptance, fiction, transgression, and community.
My art, imagination, and various creative outlets are simply my own catalysts for continuous resiliency and recovery. With the launch of my now former and viral website (as of December 2013), I had turned another engaging and uplifting page of my story. I hoped to impact others in some way through my publicized journey of how one individual copes with the perpetual rollercoaster of the experiences living with schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome, some material stranger than fiction.
I consider myself a still-recovering schizophrenic, an accomplished writer, producer, and musician, who writes about mental illness and New Age ideas and treatments, and again a darker side, a much darker side, to which you will likely bear witness. Alas, my Alibiography.
— Jonathan Harnisch


26
Nov

Lover in the Nobody | British Edition | by Jonathan Harnisch (Audiobook)

A young man battling extreme mental illness brings his sadomasochistic fantasies to life in Harnisch's (Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia, 2014, etc.) latest novel.
As this riveting story opens, Georgie Gust, a suicidal Tourette's syndrome patient, tells his doctor he wants to leave the mental institution where he's been committed. When the doctor puts him off, Gust finds himself buffeted by violent fantasies of escape, and he even prepares to hang himself. The novel plunges readers into the mind of a man at war with his own urges, memories, and sexual obsessions. After a scene shift, Gust's chauffeur, Ben, delivers him to his empty home, where Margaret, his only friend, visits to check on him. However, she annoys him because "she seems to care." Later, Gust, a foot fetishist, gives a pedicure to his sexy neighbor, Claudia, in a scene lit with unexpected poetry and poignancy. As the narrative viewpoint flickers among Gust, Ben, and a quasi-omniscient third-person perspective, Gust's voracious appetite for pain prompts him to hire Claudia to torment him. (He has wealthy parents, so he spends cash liberally.) When Claudia's house goes up in flames, she moves in with him, and their sadomasochistic bond descends into extraordinary, hallucinatory violence. In Claudia's hands, Gust discovers new depths of masochism, and she finds joy in tormenting him. Despite the garishness, brutality, and squalor of many passages (which are not for the squeamish), more sophisticated readers will appreciate the extraordinary feat Harnisch has accomplished. He lucidly, poignantly conveys a mind rivenwith what are, after all, human vulnerabilities: mental pathologies, shameful fantasies, anguished doubts about the natures of reality, love, and memory. In the hands of a lesser writer, these themes would splinter the narrative. Fortunately, the author masters his material; readers will believe the voices that vivify it and compassionately wish them to find the healing that eludes them.
An extraordinary, harrowing odyssey into an embattled self, full of humor, compassion, and a rare understanding of mental illness.
--Kirkuk Reviews
26
Nov

Battle of the Book Reviews Featuring Lover in the Nobody by Jonathan Harnisch (Author) Kirkus Literary Magazine Book Review vs. Writers Digest

Battle of the Book Reviews Featuring Lover in the Nobody by Jonathan Harnisch (Author) Kirkus Literary Magazine Book Review vs. Writers Digest
An extraordinary, harrowing odyssey into an embattled self, full of humor, compassion, and a rare understanding of mental illness.
-- Kirkus Reviews 
The characters' conversation seems stiff and "literary." 
-- Judge, 23rd Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards
A young man battling extreme mental illness brings his sadomasochistic fantasies to life in Harnisch's (Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia, 2014, etc.) latest novel.
As this riveting story opens, Georgie Gust, a suicidal Tourette's syndrome patient, tells his doctor he wants to leave the mental institution where he's been committed. When the doctor puts him off, Gust finds himself buffeted by violent fantasies of escape, and he even prepares to hang himself. The novel plunges readers into the mind of a man at war with his own urges, memories, and sexual obsessions. After a scene shift, Gust's chauffeur, Ben, delivers him to his empty home, where Margaret, his only friend, visits to check on him. However, she annoys him because "she seems to care." Later, Gust, a foot fetishist, gives a pedicure to his sexy neighbor, Claudia, in a scene lit with unexpected poetry and poignancy. As the narrative viewpoint flickers among Gust, Ben, and a quasi-omniscient third-person perspective, Gust's voracious appetite for pain prompts him to hire Claudia to torment him. (He has wealthy parents, so he spends cash liberally.) When Claudia's house goes up in flames, she moves in with him, and their sadomasochistic bond descends into extraordinary, hallucinatory violence. In Claudia's hands, Gust discovers new depths of masochism, and she finds joy in tormenting him. Despite the garishness, brutality, and squalor of many passages (which are not for the squeamish), more sophisticated readers will appreciate the extraordinary feat Harnisch has accomplished. He lucidly, poignantly conveys a mind rivenwith what are, after all, human vulnerabilities: mental pathologies, shameful fantasies, anguished doubts about the natures of reality, love, and memory. In the hands of a lesser writer, these themes would splinter the narrative. Fortunately, the author masters his material; readers will believe the voices that vivify it and compassionately wish them to find the healing that eludes them.
An extraordinary, harrowing odyssey into an embattled self, full of humor, compassion, and a rare understanding of mental illness.
--Kirkus Reviews
22
Nov

Chance Encounter | Book Excerpt: Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography

A Chance Encounter: Reality? Ben’s the last in line at the convenience store across the street. He appears to be conversing with someone, but no one is speaking to him. These people find better deals here, across the way from that 1-2-3-4-5 star hotel. Better deals on both coffee and cigarettes, Georgie announces. “Shhh. Shut up, Georgie. Get out of my head.” Hotel gift shops are for those in a hurry and for those who don’t care much for variety or value. “I never shop there. Guests shouldn’t either.” Ben gets a medium coffee and a pack of smokes, along with his change, from the clerk. He tears open the fresh pack of smokes, juggling the medium coffee in his other hand. He steps out the door, glancing at the profile of a woman sitting on the bench outside. She is heartbreakingly beautiful. Suddenly, Ben fumbles. He drops two quarters on the pavement. “What are the chances of that?” she chuckles. You’re almost completely blind and deaf. Almost completely, Georgie points out. “I know. Why?” Because, Ben. Because. We’re in the presence of a naturally beautiful older woman. It’s destiny. Fate. She’s the One. “This always happens to me, especially if she’s wearing open-toed shoes.” “Excuse me?” the lady murmurs. As she is. “I’d lose my senses completely.” As you have. As you do. “As I am. Oh God, I hope she hasn’t got the slightest imperfection of either character or . . . what’s the word?” Physique. She is just gorgeous, Ben. Isn’t she? Shoot. Here she is coming ‘round the mountain. Here she comes. The lady stands, approaching cautiously. “Are you okay?” she asks. Listen, Ben. Can you hear her? She’s got that Plain Jane style, that quietly rapturous voice you crave. Ben suddenly finds himself thrown backwards. I wake up early for once. By 8:30 am, I’ve already walked the ocean shoreline and am on my way to the convenience store to buy a cup of coffee and a pack of smokes. It is windy. I am almost blown away. I hold onto my bright blue lampshade hat with my left hand for about a block, until I step behind the local hotel and it screens the big ocean breeze. The Sea Port Hotel is right on the water. Some hotel guests are in line before me at the convenience store across the street. They would find better deals there on both coffee and cigarettes. Hotel gift shops are for those in a hurry and for those who don’t care much for variety or value. I never shop there. Guests shouldn’t either. I get my change and tear open the fresh pack of smokes with a medium coffee in my other hand. Then I fumble the smokes, the coffee, and the change. I drop 50 cents on the pavement. “What are the chances of that?” I hear. I become almost completely blind and deaf. I know I am in the presence of a naturally beautiful older woman. This whole blackout/flashback kick is usual, especially if the beautiful older woman is wearing open-toed shoes. I’d lose my senses altogether if she had the slightest imperfection of either character or physique. “What are the chances of what?” I answer. My own voice echoes strangely in the darkness of my mind. “You were just singing ‘Hotel California’,” she says. “I heard you.” It must’ve been playing on the radio while I showered this morning. She was humming the melody, too. I shut up. I look down. She scrapes something off her heel against the steps. “Aw! I stepped in somebody’s gum,” she moans. I pull out a fresh smoke. “I think it’s a Lifesaver,” I tell her. She discovers that I am right. “But you were singing the same song as me, weren’t you?” she persists. “I don’t know,” I explain. “I don’t remember.” And here she is. She’s brought such a Perplexity into my world. My senses collect every drop of her data. Right then, the bright lights of her jewelry flashes bury themselves in the nostalgic depths of my imagination and memory. “Well, don’t be embarrassed,” she suggests. “That’s amazing!” “Yeah,” I say. A vintage black Ferrari pulls out of the lot with its top down. Heidi gives it no attention. The male driver (in his 50s) probably suffers from the same premature ejaculation that the car does, backfiring. I grunt at the thought. “Hey, you live down the corner of the next block. You’re always smoking cigarettes out front,” she says. I confess, “Yeah. Probably. Maybe.” “I waved to you the other day,” she recalls, “and you just turned away.” She must have recognized the big blue hat. “I’m really groggy in the mornings,” I admit. She smiles. “You’re really anti-social.” I correct her. “Not anti-social. Non-social, maybe.” Her face lights up. She starts playing with her hair. “I was just on my way to get my nails done. I’ve been over at the Sea Port for the past week. God, it’s this convention for work. It’s so boring.” “What’s your name?” I ask. “Heidi Berillo.” Heidi has a nametag on. She must’ve forgotten. “What’s yours?” she asks. “Ben Schreiber,” I say, pointing to her nametag. “I was just checking to see if you were a liar.” I stick my hand out. “You’ve got a firm grip, Mr Schreiber,” she says. She laughs. Later that afternoon, we are hitting it off like we’ve known each other for years. “I can’t believe you’ve never given a girl a pedicure,” she scoffs. “Really?” I reply. (I do like feet.) I want to tell her that I am a virgin at making love to feet and toes. Hers are perfect. Heidi’s hotel room is strewn with papers and folders. And felt-tip pens. After she lights a joint, she gets a little feisty. Her hair is frizzy and red, and she is wild like my imagination. Like I imagine her imagination. I puff away on my cigarette. I try to read what she is thinking through her huge green eyes. Which eye cries for good things? Which one doesn’t? I am simply in the moment. I become an observer of myself, observing myself. I’m not my mind. My mind just works for me. Not the other way around. I am enlightened. For once, normal thoughts slip in, one after another. It becomes easier to focus. I’m not busy judging, analyzing, and making decisions. I am completely focused on Heidi. I think, who’s her dealer? Where’s this woman from? What does she tell herself about herself? I get the impression from Heidi’s eyes that she is experiencing something profoundly empty. Somehow, she is dramatically unfulfilled. She is left with voided hope—perhaps a little like me. She looks me right in the eyes. We have a perfect moment, a true connection. Unfortunately, it ends abruptly. I try not to pry into her life, but I am curious to know more about her. I know I’m not always the best at personal interaction. I’m not sure what is appropriate, sometimes. She asks a lot about me, but I don’t say much back. Heidi asks me about all my confusion, about what I want out of my time here on earth. Big philosophical stuff. I tell her all of my needs are already met. I tell her I’ve already lived my life. “I’ve had enough experiences with myself. All that crap.” And I tell her about my Pops, who always worked hard and always provided my family with wealth. I tell her about my Pops, who meant the world to me. She calls my ‘I’ve-lived-my-life-already’ bit bullshite, and takes a drag off my cigarette. “Are you happy?” she finally asks. “I’m not sure if happiness is what I’m really after,” I say. I tell her I am trying to actualize myself as “a writer,” a concept that is still completely muddy to me. I have idealized this image of myself in my mind, over the past 10 years, but the image keeps changing. In reality, I am writing mostly in my head, right at that moment. My friends and family want me to put something on paper, to complete something, to achieve something. I don’t think it matters anymore. “Why not?” asks Heidi. “It’s like I’m too far away, in time, from when I was actively participating in things and enjoying them while they were happening.” “How old are you, Ben?” “Thirty.” Heidi is under the veil of drugs, but she’s not paranoid or tripped-out or anything. Inside Heidi, there is somebody genuine, and I can see inside her, just barely make her out. There is somebody real in there. Funny, that’s always good to know. The alarm clock radio is tuned to Billy Joel’s “An Innocent Man.” Heidi says she has only recently figured out her life, at age 40. I don’t believe her, and I tell her so. “I don’t believe you,” I say. She says she takes things very seriously. She says that every encounter happens for a reason. “Every situation, every consequence. Everything,” she adds. I wonder what my role in her life really is. Somehow, this woman, whom I’ve just met, knows me so well already. I’ve really missed that. People usually take very little interest in other people. But with Heidi, I feel honored and appreciated. Still, I feel like I don’t really deserve the luxury. Heidi finishes her joint and pockets the roach. She slips off her open-toed leather shoes and stretches her toes. Her light blue polish has peeled off her nails, like an adolescent girl’s. “I need a pedicure,” Heidi says, smiling playfully. “Now!” Toto’s “Africa” airs next on the bedside radio: “Frightened of this thing that I’ve become,” somebody sings. I paint her toes with New Blue toenail polish and she falls asleep. I write a note: “Thank you. Ben.” I watch her sleep for half an hour. Then I write my home phone number below the note in my usual kiddie-print handwriting and walk out, not really knowing what else to do. Heidi has a lecture to attend later on. Later, I sit in my bedroom, still listening to the radio. “Hurry, boy, she’s waiting there for you.” The phone rings. The machine picks up. Click. “Hey, Ben, I was just thinking of you.” It’s all about me now, isn’t it? I can’t help it. I take a carefree stroll on the beach, remembering the best parts of growing up. They flood my mind with nostalgia. I try to remain in the present, but I am stuck in the past. The moonshine lights up the sand, and the whitecaps, that break 20 feet out. The tide is low, the rolling is a little choppy, but the wave sounds are soothing. I remember how rich and full my life was before. Before. Before what? I wonder what went wrong. I walk along the water’s edge to find some inner peace. I have always enjoyed wandering around, not doing much. I’m comfortable in my imagination, or I’m comfortable nowhere. I think: Has love ever made one whole year of your life miserable? I wonder if my year of misery is approaching. It is nighttime. I start to dream. Heidi and I are lost in our thoughts; we take in all that surrounds us. We are walking the neighborhood sidewalks, holding hands, until we come to the beach where the whitecaps crash right at our feet. Huge seagulls with wide-open wingspans swoop in for their final feast of the day. The next morning, the beach is empty. The sky is gray, flat and still, surreal. The gulls fly low in flocks as the long Pacific rollers wash in and out. We revisit the past. But whose past? Oh my God! The Living Colorful Beauty is so intense. I just can’t stand it. I speak on the phone with Heidi. “I was downstairs at one of the lectures. It was sooo boring,” Heidi says. “Boring, huh?” “But I got several compliments on my new pedicure,” she teases. “Thank God,” I say, letting out a sigh of relief. I stand in the empty hotel room that weekend, bewildered. It had been quickly vacated—I could tell. In the bathroom, there is a wet towel lying on the floor, crumpled up from wet feet with a woman’s footprints embedded. Empty single-serving soap bottles make a mess on the corner shelf. A Mexican housekeeper readies the room for its next guests. Back at my place, I play the message player back again. “So I thought you might like to know what a great job you did, and on such short notice, too. You were just in time for the only panel discussion I really came here for in the first place.” Her telephone had sat on the unmade bed with a box of tissues beside it. Across the street from me is a fishing pier. A middle-aged couple walks hand in hand to the end of the pier. They stare out at the freight barges sailing into port. There is a snack and bait stand nearby, but it hasn’t opened yet. At the base of the pier, a pay phone dangles off its hook. There is some litter rolling around the streets. Not much, though. “I’m meeting some cool people here, but a lot of them are really boring. This whole convention thing is really dull.” The night before, Heidi and I shared a cherry Slush Puppie on the pier. She popped a few Tylenols because, she said, her head was still throbbing slightly from all the boredom and ennui lingering over her past week at the psych conference. I declined the Tylenol. I was still awe-struck by the whirling seagulls and the shooting stars. Only a few fishermen are out with their gear; it’s still pretty early. An Asian man pulls up a small fish. The thing must be contaminated—the seawater down below is brown and slimy—but his boy grabs the bucket anyway. That small radioactive fish is a keeper. “So, some of my friends and I wanted to hang out by the bar and talk medicine, but I was hoping we could finish our conversation from last night. I really enjoyed walking the town with you.” After the Slushie, we stopped by my place and shared a Winston. I invited her in, but she declined. We took a drive down the coast under the moon instead. My house is empty; nobody is up yet. The whole neighborhood is still asleep. A white van drives by. A newspaper is tossed on the manicured lawn out front. “At least before I leave tomorrow,” she said. “Oh, and the weather is so much nicer out here.” Sunlight bleeds horizontally through the closed blinds in my bedroom. Pretty soon I am sound asleep. “I was thinking about how brilliant you are,” Heidi told me on the answering machine. “And, jeez, you have so much talent. People look at you and they see big things.” Expect big things. That’s what she meant. Big things, little things. It doesn’t matter. It’s a stress I can’t handle, people expecting things. Anything. Not from me. I live in my head. Alone. I buy porno, coffee, and smokes from the snack and bait shop next door, and come home. Jerk off. Alone. I’m okay with that. The clock on Georgie’s nightstand reads 10:30 am. I wake up and glance at Georgie. I don’t wake him. I crawl out of bed. The sky has cleared up a bit over the beach, and the beach is packed with kite-fliers. A dozen kites glide over the blue-fogged coast, bright with color and wonder. The hotel room next door is clean by now. Ready for new guests. Downstairs, a conference is just letting out. The checkout line is already out the door. Most of the guests wear nametags on their blazers. The bellboys are busier than hell. There are dozens of fishermen on the pier. More men than fish. “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Heidi had asked. “I love that question.” I walk the beach, having no clue how to answer. Most of the neighborhood seems to be outdoors. Most people wear light jackets or hooded sweatshirts. They walk their dogs. (Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Tiny white dogs with brown runny stuff around their eyes. They walk their children. Alley cats run loose on the sidewalks, and slide underneath the cars parked on one-way streets. A few cars pass by slowly, going maybe 10 miles an hour. Pest control trucks park outside at least one house per block, it seems like. There is hardly any crime, violence, or vandalism in this part of the city. Maybe some drugs, some domestics; you know, whatever goes down inside people’s private residences—the stuff we never know about. “Grab hold of just one project and get in there with your teeth and see what happens,” she had said. “Why not? If somebody wants a story about you and you’re the only one who knows it well enough, then go for it! You would do the world a favor. Hell, do it for me! I’d love to hear about all that crap, as you call it.” A small gate leads to my front door. It is a charming little pad, perfect for a loner like me. “So what if your dad is some big, well-to-do asshole? This is your chance to shine,” she coaxed. “Just go for it!” It was really nice to have some woman cheering me on. It was the closest thing I’d ever known to true love. Heidi mentioned that she’d found the perfect little gift in the hotel gift shop. She wanted me to call her later. The orange sunset flashes between two buildings downtown. I sprawl out on the beach. The sun is setting earlier than usual, I think. Why did I just leave like that? What about going back? Somehow, I just couldn’t change my mind about Heidi. Reality hit me really hard, and I was scared to go after her, like a real man. Time stops for just a few exquisite seconds, maybe five or six, until I can’t take it much longer. I am self-aware in my newly discovered growth spurt. I am happy, I guess. I’m so happy, I start to cry—just because I am feeling good. Just because I can. Just until I need to stop. I start to really appreciate having met Heidi. Maybe I’m still working through the obsession with Claudia. From the beach, I head back home. I’m already starting to have conversations with Heidi in my head without her being there or being able to answer me. How lucky she is! Is this love? Beep. “Hey, Ben, I was just thinking of you. I was downstairs at one of the lectures.” Beep. “Hey, Ben, ugh . . .I’m just calling. I’m sorry. It’s this stupid conference. I’m not going to go to this class I have in 10 minutes. I’m getting so sick of the same thing over and over again. I’m just in my room taking a bath. Anyway, I’m sorry to bother you. Thanks for letting me vent.” Were we just two shattered souls who ended up trying to save each other in some doomed fashion? The door swings shut from inside the house. I never get calls. And when I do, I always miss them. “Hello?” I answer. “Ben?” “You must look so beautiful in that bathtub,” I say. “That’s one of the nicest things a guy has ever said to me.” Back at her place, her lovely feet await my attention. She doesn’t refuse when I administer an oral foot massage while she is still in the bath. “Right on the arches, Ben,” she cries. I love every minute of it. Her feet quiver with delight. Her toes stretch awkwardly. “I’m . . . sick . . . I’m dizzy,” she moans. “And you’re incredible.” Oh, the gibberish we speak in ecstasy, moaning meaningless words. “Sick-dizzy,” she giggles intensely. She giggles her orgasm, gibbers and moans her pleasure. I understand her, in some fucked-up way. Afterwards, Heidi lies quietly asleep, on top of the white bed covers. She is wearing men’s pajamas. I head back home. We hadn’t made love. She must think of me as the friendly type, like most other women do. But that is fine. I’m used to that. Heidi is a little nutty, but I like that, too. She is a mess. She is so innocently a disaster. She is the little Perplexity in my head. I get home at 3 am. I’ve always loved the night, when everyone else is asleep and the world is all mine. It’s quiet and dark—the perfect time for creativity. All of a sudden, inspiration comes. Things are clearer. My ideas make more sense. I can finally start to type out, with a little passion, some interesting letters on the screen. I’ll have to begin the story from here, with me, as ridiculous as that sounds. It’s been forever since I actually sat down to write again. Does this mean my writer’s block has broken? Or am I just fooling myself again? “I never meant to be such a narcissist,” I cry. “I just can’t get away from myself.” I’ve always wanted somebody like Heidi to love. But I still don’t know what I need. Maybe I just need one tiny success, one simple thing. Maybe I just need something in this life that will work out in the long run. Maybe I just need to complete something, to get over some things. Maybe I just need something good to last. God probably took delight in orchestrating me, that day. I’ll call it a day of personal growth. I never hear from Heidi or see her again. And now my mind runs wild with quiet confusion. The little affair we had felt so soothing to the senses. I’ll wake up tomorrow, thinking about today. The next day I’ll wake up thinking about tomorrow. Am I really just a perverted sex addict, like maybe I think I am? Or is this really some kind of love? (You tell me, Dr C. Please.)Dear Diary:I think we are all good souls, all of us, even me, even if only deep down inside.
The Emperor Concerto, Second Movement He slaps the snooze button. Half hit. Half miss. It’s all gross. He’s sweaty and ashamed. He can’t even get up. Another fucking horrible day in the life of . . . me. Georgie Gust. And then laziness creeps in. Georgie starts hating himself. He starts to laugh. “Snooze, damn it!” he tells the alarm clock. He always thought a snooze was a good 9, 10 minutes. Georgie actually timed the motherfucker several times. This piece of crap mostly gives him 9 or 10 minutes of extra sleep time. This day, that day, though, the thing can’t even give him two. Cheap, damn thing. It’s 1:30 pm. Even at this hour, so far into the day, he hesitates to open the shades. He hopes it is not all dismal and gloomy outside. He’s trying to picture himself somewhere out there, in the world. But he just can’t picture it. Maybe if he just stays in bed someone else will open the shades, and save Georgie the trouble of discovering the day. He closes his eyes, falling half asleep. He finds himself in a non-smoking room at the local three-star hotel. He’s hotel-hopping. He needs to get away again. We always need to get away, Georgie and me, even if it’s only in our head. Geographical change is the easiest fix. Georgie opens his eyes. He can’t figure out where that three-star hotel has gone. He’s already forgotten—he’s still at home. The next day, our place now clean, Georgie still can’t get out of his head. He thinks how much he dreads, how much he resents, the effort it takes to take another shower, brush his teeth, and clean himself up, again and again. He just did that yesterday—he shouldn’t have to do it again today. Once should be enough. Once and forever. Now Georgie craves something different. He’s desperate for something new. He would kill for something new. We both would. (But who?) This particular morning, the razor burn on Georgie’s neck looks like a leper’s chafed jock-itch. He can’t wait the couple of days for the skin on his neck to heal, but at least he won’t have to spend the time and effort to shave again—and that’s comforting. After all, the longer he lets his facial hair grow out, the easier it is to shave. After all these years, Georgie still can’t find the right shaving method. Currently, he’s on a Panasonic electric for the first layer, then a straight edge without lotion for the second part. Back to a smaller electric beard trimmer, level one, for his goatee shadow. No lotion. No cream. No soap. With so much nausea, angst, worry, anxiety, and despair welling up inside him, Georgie is suffocating in life. His pathetic and abused gut keeps getting filled with an extra load of explosive anxiety. It’s worse than tickle torture. He hasn’t taken any risks for some time now. The rut where he’s been trapped has felt so safe. He’s had no view; the walls were high, the rut was deep. All Georgie could see was up and out. Up and away. (But away from what? Away where? More unanswerable questions, huh?) Most things and events really don’t have much meaning for him anymore. Georgie needs meaning more than anything else. But meaning is exactly what Georgie hasn’t got. And he probably won’t get it, either. Georgie really doesn’t know what the day will bring. The only thing he knows is his sloppy routine of rituals: smoking, shiting, showering, shaving, fixing his hair, flossing, brushing his teeth, taking his meds, and organizing. He uses a ton of paper creating lists of things to do, things to accomplish, so he can feel productive. His father tells him it’s important to be productive. So he tries. He really does. He looks at the bathroom mirror with the sticker in the corner that reads: JUST TRUST ME. Right. Like Georgie’s going to trust any of the shitey-assed people he calls friends. Georgie’s pathetic reflection looks back at him from the empty mirror. He has this huge ego blowing up his head, like an untied condom, until it screwballs up and away. He guesses he looks all right these days. No, really. He looks good. He just doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s so glam rock; he’s so smart. It’s like he has Asperger’s, or some kind of artistic autism. But he’s not sick. His doctor knows that. (Doesn’t she, Dr C?) He can’t deal with a label like depression or stress. He feels much worse than that. He feels like shite. (Do you have a Latin name for shite, Dr C?) When he shaves, the razor makes love to Georgie’s skin. When he pees, he aims for the silent section on the toilet’s water edge. Afterwards, he usually farts, shites, and pees again, while he’s sitting a little too long on the toilet. Georgie melts into the quality time he takes, thinking on the porcelain tank. His thoughts are trivial. They seem important, but they’re nothing he would ever act on. He is on good behavior. It’s just a lot of theory. A CD is usually skipping while Georgie’s in the shower. In the shower, he strips down to his naked self. He comes into his true element. He can’t see a thing without his glasses, and he can’t tell you how many wristwatches he’s lost because they don’t have waterproofing. But that’s okay. Waterproof watches are never appealing to the eye.(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Smudged eyeglasses. There’s no washcloth. He washes himself by hand with shampoo—not soap. Shampoo works better because Georgie is hairy, like me. But I don’t wash with shampoo. I use hand-milled, organic soap from Northern California—Sunset Cedar, from a shop called Patti’s Organics. Georgie smiles in the shower because he was born a man. The shower is the one place where he’s rarely sexually charged. He thinks of himself as a connoisseur, a connoisseur of filth (so soap does not appeal). Women’s dirty fingernails, their smelly anal fetishes, anything nasty—her already-smoked cigarettes for the shrine, the smell of gasoline and melted hair follicles. Filth. Georgie hates dropping the soap. He hates all the bottles in the shower. They confuse him and make him think these products are really useful when he knows they’re not.(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Long fingernails. Worse, long toenails. He hates falling in the shower. God, what else? What else can they do to mess up his day? (What else is there to complain about?) They should have a soap dispenser that mixes soap with water, like at a car wash. It would be a time-saving convenience. It would save energy. What an idea! He should patent that, and make a million bucks. Yeah, right, Georgie. Drying off, towels are so coarse and unfitting. Georgie gets water scars in between his toes sometimes.(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Hangnails. Every day, all this, all that. Everything is still the same. Georgie doesn’t change. Nothing does. Neither do I. Same shite, different day, we say. Georgie and me. His feet are a size 12. He wears shoes all the time because his feet embarrass him. He wears blue shoes. That way, he doesn’t have to think of how disgusting his own feet are. His legs are still in shape but he wears long pants, no matter how hot the weather gets. His legs embarrass him, too. Otherwise, he is your generic, overweight pumpkin. His plump belly sticks out over his belt. Maybe it’s cute and huggie-bearish to some single sex addicts, but to hell if Georgie thinks so. He weighs in around 268. His driver’s license says he’s 168. The driver’s license picture doesn’t even look like him, but the photo came out pretty nice. He used to be in shape. Now he just recites affirmations. Now he just tells himself he loves himself just the way he is. It’s all bullshite, but it works for him. His passport picture is pleasing. He enjoys looking at himself. Georgie dresses up and blow-dries his hair, and then he primps and curls it. He has these highlights. He has a kind of WASPy, honk-Afro look going on. At least his hair is cool; at least his hair is always having a good day. My hair, now my hair is dark and thick with a bit of a permanent wave. My mother always said it was my best feature. And here I always thought it was my cuddly personality. Georgie should’ve picked out his clothes the night before. All his full-size shirts and comfortable pants are at the cleaners, and he doesn’t fit into the 32s anymore. He went from a “large” to an “extra large” in shirts. Georgie’s just started leaving the shirttails out of his pants. He used to tuck them in, neatly, and wear a belt. But no longer. Still, he’ll keep the smaller stuff in the closet—the shirts and pants don’t fit, but some of the clothes remind him of the past. They have a nostalgic meaning for Georgie. In Georgie’s case, too, clothes make the man. (But make him what? I want to know.) An hour later, he’s finally dressed. Now for the breakfast order. Like everything else in Georgie’s world, breakfast is a chore. He washes the dishes by hand to get his mind off everything else. He can’t help feeling like things are falling apart in slow motion. Doing things like that, little things, trivial things, reminds him of being hypnotized. Strolling down the supermarket aisles at midnight with the trippy supermarket music and the paradox of choice everywhere around him. In the grocery store, somehow, time feels different. Georgie’s out of orange juice, and the milk will give him gas, but milk goes best with microwave pancakes. Georgie likes his food a little cold, and he dislikes cooking. He presses the “cancel/stop” button twice on the microwave when it’s down to two seconds. It’s not like he’s in any rush. He has all day.(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Fat free = taste free. His keys are in place. He locks the door without really checking. Georgie’s sick and tired of always lock-checking, lock-checking, and then remembering I forget important things after he’s already out the door.(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) If I return home, I suddenly get the feeling I didn’t lock the door, then find that I did after all. Georgie, I think, could very well be a loser, but what’s that say about me? That I’d be a loser of a literary character, too? What’s wrong with a whiner? A complainer? An agoraphobic with OCD? Is that me? I catch Georgie out of the corner of my eye and wonder what I’ve done, giving him all these issues. He swears he’s not going to check that lock—but he does, anyway, even though he’s just going out for coffee and coming right back. It’s not like he’s going to plan his whole life, sitting at the counter, sipping his cup of Joe. It’s not like he is some romantic poet at the Café Paris. Finally, Georgie lights his first cigarette of the day—a Marlboro Light—and he worries about cancer, like everything else. And puffs away. After his first cigarette comes another cup of coffee, and then another smoke—and a couple of more smokes, after that. He brings along his laptop computer, a pad and pen, and a couple of self-help books with the covers torn off, just in case. Just in case something strikes. He rarely uses any of these things in public. Sometimes he drives to the convenience store and sits in the parking lot. He watches people. He likes people-watching. But he doesn’t like people. Go figure. Georgie rarely looks forward to actually dealing with people. But he’ll end up running into somebody every time. People get in his way, and they are unavoidable—like signs on the sidewalks, or spills in the elevator. Or sometimes Georgie gets caught in some really important check-in with somebody who really shouldn’t care what’s up with him. (And neither should Georgie.) All this whining and baby shite gets him nowhere, he knows—but he just keeps bitching. He dreads being in line at the coffee shop again. He gets self-conscious and self-critical around the perfect advertisement-model-types in line ahead of him. They pretend they’re holding their noses and standing clear of the stench coming off Georgie’s stale, smelly sweater. It reeks of the toxic fumes of tobacco pollution. And they’re all so nice and friendly, and trivial, and guarded. Now that’s a challenge. Dealing with these people, I mean, without freaking out or throwing a temper tantrum. Still, he’s half asleep. Georgie’s always half asleep. No matter what I do. Except, of course, when he’s thinking of Claudia. She’s the only goddamn thing that really makes him feel alive. Georgie is next in line at the coffee shop. Tabitha’s working the counter, but Georgie’s not paying much attention to her. He’s thinking of Claudia. What else?Dear Diary:I just let others say and do what they want—I just keep being me. Well, sort of.
21
Nov

RECENT REVIEWS OF BOOKS BY JONATHAN HARNISCH

RECENT REVIEWS OF BOOKS BY JONATHAN HARNISCH

Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography

This, it is easy to imagine, is what life with mental illness is like for some: full of continuous questioning, rationalization, guilt, anxiety.

Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography presents a simultaneously dazzling and frightening portrayal of mental illness through the eyes of several characters—though all embodied in the same being.

The complex narrative is seemingly told from the viewpoint of Benjamin J. Schreiber, son of a wealthy blue-blood family who converses with his doctor (known as C). The privilege afforded to him by birth enables him to live relatively well off; his multitude of diagnoses, including Tourette’s and schizoaffective disorder, would effectively render him incapable of functioning in society under other circumstances. However, Ben doesn’t wish to talk about himself with Dr. C, but rather a fictional counterpart, Georgie Gust.

Georgie, like Ben, comes from an aristocratic family and views reality from a different vantage. An obsessive coffee drinker and chain smoker, he maintains a quiet (though sordid) existence on the outside, a rich sexual life in private. Early in the text, an erotic scene focusing on his foot fetishism appears in exacting detail. This proves to be the most tame of Georgie’s passions, as soon he begins his sadomasochistic conquest of Claudia, an older woman whom he hires to torture him. This, too, is richly rendered, as Georgie is teased with dripping wax, hot pans, and psychological distress. The two become dependent upon each other, hating yet needing their company, and their relationship evolves into a bizarre reimagining of the American Dream, one in which we are privy to the seedy reality underneath the polished exterior.

Forced to confront the darker nature of desire, An Alibiography shocks and confuses as the narrative unspools itself with a randomness that evokes a questioning of reality. This, it is easy to imagine, is what life with mental illness is like for some: full of continuous questioning, rationalization, guilt, and anxiety. In many respects, this work can be compared to Alasdair Gray’s 1982, Janine, in which a businessman obsesses over his sadomasochistic desires and dreams, seeking meaning in his own marginalized existence. Harnisch’s work, however, employs many main characters embodied in the same man, building realities within realities that often cannot be constructed into a cohesive narrative.

At over eight hundred pages, the subject loses shock value and becomes mundane. As Georgie and Claudia’s passion evolves and intensifies, and the novel ventures into the completely surreal, disgusting, and criminal, the oversaturation of violence and S&M confuses the message. Mental illness is romanticized at points in the text, as well, which may leave some familiar with the realities with an unsavory taste. That’s not to say the work isn’t well written—it’s carefully plotted with well-rendered characters, presented in a narrative that would appropriately be deemed “schizophrenic.”
However, upon reaching the end, there is an exhaustion. Perhaps, though, this is in itself a meaning: that life with mental illness is difficult and confusing, yet produces a desperation for understanding.

-- ​Foreword Clarion Reviews

The author of this deeply moving portrait of a schizophrenic is afflicted himself with schizo-affective disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome and a few other things. Jonathan Harnisch even calls himself “the king of mental illness.” Given those obstacles, it’s a wonder he can write anything, much less a semi-autobiographical novel as fiercely intelligent and finely crafted as this one.

First, a caveat: At 803 pages, Harnisch’s cleverly named “alibiography” contains all the repetitions and anomalies you might expect from a writer with serious demons. There’s also some gibberish. Sample: “Make it and makeshift it. Prototype it! Grab it! Snag it!”

Little matter. The protagonist, a disturbed trust-funder named Benjamin J. Schreiber, who has a self-destructive alter ego called Georgie Gust boiling inside his head, may be the most compelling character in the literature of madness since A Beautiful Mind’s John Nash. Unable to cope with dark childhood traumas, reclusive Ben transfers his fears and obsessions to his extroverted creation, Georgie, who falls into the clutches of a cruel sado-masochist lover, Claudia Nesbitt. That means Ben suffers too, of course, and Harnisch’s depictions of inner torment are harrowing. When Ben tries to hang himself, the scene reverberates with authorial knowingness.

Ben descends into drug addiction. He tries to rob a bank in Pasadena. He spends years in a mental ward as “everything I don’t want to be.”  Luckily, he also comes under the care of a gifted psychiatrist, “Dr. C,” who unlocks the secrets of his past and gives Ben hope. All he’s ever dreamed of—what the author obviously wants, too-—is some “seemingly impossible peace of mind, through complete honesty and self-love, by any means necessary.”

For Harnisch, those means seem to have included writing this powerful, heart-wrenching and clearly self-therapeutic book, even though his alter ego, Ben, feels obliged to apologize to the reader “for all the utter confusion, chaos and inconsistencies here within.”  No apology necessary.

-- BlueInk Review

Second Alibi: The Banality of Life

Harnisch’s words and images dance vividly and repeat themselves in strange succession; even his most self-conscious writing has rhythmic energy and flair.

Jonathan Harnisch doesn’t so much showcase literary genius as he grapples with it in his experimental autobiography, Second Alibi: The Banality of Life. Genius is a creative spirit he chases. When he gets his hands on it, when genius possesses him, the results are stunning. Parts of Second Alibi radiate with originality.

With a self-referential postmodern style reminiscent of William Burroughs, Harnisch chronicles his hell-bent search for personal truth. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental disorders, he explores all aspects of his personality: his alter ego, Ben; his alter ego’s alter ego, Georgie; and their mutual love interest, Claudia. Harnisch wrangles to the page episodes of madness and lucidity, hospitalizations, hallucinations, love affairs. He searches every experience for meaning, sometimes exhaustively, and offers up whatever truth he can.

If there’s fault in Harnisch’s methodology, it’s that he overanalyzes and micromanages his own creative process. For example, the book’s third act flounders in a sea of platitudinous journal entries about living with mental illness, the writing process, the progress of his manuscript, and his ultimate aspirations as a writer. Although well-intentioned, the entries become preening and laborious. At one point, the author admits, “I feel like I am forcing this writing.”

The book’s first and second acts are much stronger—the first relayed in stream-of-consciousness passages, and the second in the form of a screenplay. In the first act, Harnisch produces the stuff of poetry. His words and images dance vividly and repeat themselves in strange succession: “The living, colorful sound of the mysterious telephone still haunts us, even me. It rings and rings, again and again.” In these passages, even his most self-conscious writing has rhythmic energy and flair: “The sensation of sensational sex and blue movies, the characters and chaos, onslaughts of sketches, prototypes … of expanding pounding putty and pus, some sex and violence. I’m built for it.”

The second act, the screenplay, offers the book’s most absorbing and sharply written drama. Harnisch appears to be a natural in the medium, exploring past trauma through scene and dialogue. The screenplay ends with amazing profundity. “And sometimes you just have to listen to the sounds of your life,” Ben says. “That kind of silence. That deep remarkable hollow stuff.”
Second Alibi provides an honest window into the “hollow stuff.” Harnisch is at his best, though, when he leaves his inner critic behind and allows his creativity to color the world around him.

-- ​Foreword Clarion Reviews

Afflicted with schizophrenia, Tourette’s Syndrome and other mental illnesses, the prolific and gifted Jonathan Harnisch has transformed the harrowing raw material of his life into what he calls “transgressive fiction” in semi-autobiographical novels such as Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography and Living Colorful Beauty. With Second Alibi: The Banality of Life, he revisits the abrasive, triangular psychodrama of his brilliant, questing psychotic Ben Schreiber, Ben’s libertine alter-ego, Georgie Gust, and the sadistic temptress, Claudia Nesbitt, who torments them both, while also including a moving plea for understanding that stands apart from the disturbed fevers of his fiction.

“This is a story, I hope, about my coming to enlightenment,” Harnisch writes, and in that vein he enlightens us, too, about the fantastic terrors of schizophrenia: “What this life is like with the ups and the downs, the confusion, the love and the hate; the black and the white.” He tells us about his moods abruptly shifting 25 times in an hour, his suicide attempts and addictions, the grim realities of sleep deprivation and the fear that his beloved wife has been reading his mind.

Second Alibi toggles unpredictably between semi-coherent rage (Harnisch says he often writes when symptomatic) and cool detachment, and it deploys several forms: Harnisch’s sexually-charged fiction (Claudia is “a slow-moving serpent with a tongue of fire and the ass of a bombshell”); a 106-page screenplay featuring dialogues between Ben and his old antagonists, and with his life-saving therapist, “Dr. C”; self-lacerating entries from “Georgie Gust’s” 2005 diary, and the author’s clear explanations of his condition, apparently written at moments when his symptoms have subsided.
At times, Harnisch is energized by the very power of his illness. “The mind and the sickness is all so sublime,” he writes, “the heart of living, colorful beauty.” But in his most lucid moments, this brave and eloquent writer struggles mightily to escape the dark woods of madness: “As always, my journey continues, on and on.”

-- BlueInk Review

Living Colorful Beauty

Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride.
In Living Colorful Beauty, author Jonathan Harnisch tells the story of Ben, a man diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, schizoaffective disorder, and several other issues. Ever since his youth, Ben has been both plagued by mental illness and obsessed with venality. As he navigates through an unstable, directionless life and leaves a string of shattered romances in his wake, he generates a fictional character, Georgie Gust, to deal with his many paraphilias and neuroses. But with the introduction of a new psychotherapist, Ben may have a chance to let go of his doppelgänger as well as his overwhelming insecurity.

Though the book is saturated with Ben’s sexuality, its prevailing theme is actually his struggle to come to terms with his mental health. The entire book reads like a Freudian therapy session, so the ultimate resolution of Ben’s problems is appropriate. Ben’s internal creative process is integral to the book’s effectiveness, since much of the psychoanalysis Ben receives seems to come from himself through the lens of his fictional creation, Georgie. The book features an almost claustrophobic amount of of navel-gazing, which may be intentional. At times, the reading experience leaves no doubt as to how the book’s main character could drive himself crazy with his recursive, obsessive self-examination.

Ben and Georgie have an interesting and nuanced relationship. At times Ben seems completely unable to control his double while simultaneously being one with him. He often reassures himself that his creation is the inferior man, citing Georgie’s pumpkin-like body as the reason that nobody will ever want him. On the other hand, of the two of them, Georgie seems to have the more active love life. Ben reaches for emotional intimacy through relationship after relationship, but his illness, issues with women, and physical demands—the Georgie in him—constantly hamper his progress.

As the narrator, Ben’s point of view colors all of the other characters. Several of these, in addition to Georgie, are or may be fictional, mere expressions of Ben’s illness. This is especially true of the women in Ben’s life. There are comparatively very few men in this story, but the women are usually of a seductive and even predatory type. Ben aggressively sizes up the ladies he knows, from his girlfriends to his therapist, in terms of their attractiveness, perhaps in an attempt to balance the scales, since in his own perception, women are domineering copies of his own terrifying mother. Part of Ben’s evolution is to move toward a valuing of women beyond his mother issues, a satisfying direction for this character to travel.

Living Colorful Beauty is a twisted, intensely character-driven ride that ends on a hopeful note. It may interest fans of Charles Bukowski and Tom Robbins.
-- ​Foreword Clarion Reviews

This short novel by New Mexico writer Jonathan Harnisch features the same urgent anguish—and the same disturbing characters—as the author’s 803-page, semi-autobiographical rampage through sexual obsession, schizophrenia and healing, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography. Good news: Living Colorful Beauty stands on its own, serving as a vivid introduction to this gifted, if flawed, writer’s teeming mind.

In 30-year-old Benjamin J. Schreiber, who suffers (like Harnisch) from schizo-affective disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome, the author has created a brilliant and memorable psychotic. In reckless Georgie Gust, he delivers a convincing alter-ego to whom Ben can transfer “my confessionary details, my sins, my fetishes.”  As in Alibiography, their destructive common fantasy is the cruel, manipulative siren Claudia Nesbitt. Their possible salvation? An insightful shrink called Dr. C.

Once again, Harnisch’s prose is simultaneously original and confusing: ”the words in my head have turned to salad,” Ben tells us, but “my imagination’s on fire.”  Careening between New York and Southern California, and even more wildly between the searing traumas of Ben’s childhood and the perilous uncertainties of his present, the narrative reveals a tormented soul who is “merely a spy, an observer, into the world of my hallucinations” but who can sometimes make peace with his demons. “Let me lose my mind,” Ben muses. “Fuck it. I’m going out for a walk on the beach. The beach is a block away. The voices in my head are raging. They’re calling me a winner.”

For Harnisch, who playfully calls himself “the king of mental illness,” writing fiction is clearly therapeutic. An editor character tells Ben: “The problem though is that your reader cannot possibly follow your train of thought,” and that’s often our problem, too. But the authenticity of Harnisch’s voice bursts through the tangles and repetitions of his language. He’s the real thing.
19
Nov

Living Colorful Beauty by Jonathan Harnisch

"This short novel by New Mexico writer Jonathan Harnisch features the same urgent anguish--and the same disturbing characters--as the author's 803-page, semi- autobiographical rampage through sexual obsession, schizophrenia and healing, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography. Good news: Living Colorful Beauty stands on its own, serving as a vivid introduction to this gifted, if flawed, writer's teeming mind. 

In 30-year-old Benjamin J. Schreiber, who suffers (like Harnisch) from schizoaffective disorder and Tourette's Syndrome, the author has created a brilliant and memorable psychotic. In reckless Georgie Gust, he delivers a convincing alter-ego to whom Ben can transfer "my confessionary details, my sins, my fetishes." As in Alibiography, their destructive common fantasy is the cruel, manipulative siren Claudia Nesbitt. Their possible salvation? An insightful shrink called Dr. C. 

Once again, Harnisch's prose is simultaneously original and confusing: "the words in my head have turned to salad," Ben tells us, but "my imagination's on fire." Careening between New York and Southern California, and even more wildly between the searing traumas of Ben's childhood and the perilous uncertainties of his present, the narrative reveals a tormented soul who is "merely a spy, an observer, into the world of my hallucinations" but who can sometimes make peace with his demons. "Let me lose my mind," Ben muses. "Fuck it. I'm going out for a walk on the beach. The beach is a block away. The voices in my head are raging. They're calling me a winner." 

For Harnisch, who playfully calls himself "the king of mental illness," writing fiction is clearly therapeutic. An editor character tells Ben: "The problem though is that your reader cannot possibly follow your train of thought," and that's often our problem, too. But the authenticity of Harnisch's voice bursts through the tangles and repetitions of his language. He's the real thing." 

-- BlueInk Review
19
Nov

The Brutal Truth by Jonathan Harnisch

Jonathan Harnisch is an "artist, dreamer, man on a mission, and human being just like you." He is also "a deeply troubled and disturbed person," who lives with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. He is committed to sharing his unique life online in order to help others.

Through a relentless, direct encounter with his schizophrenic self and thoughts, Harnisch offers a rare insight into this often misunderstood disorder. Extraordinarily, the message is one of resilience and hope, finding rare wisdom through enduring and learning to understand his psychotic episodes. Rather than retreating into his own troubles, Harnisch journeys inside himself in order to understand the humanity that he shares with others: "The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others do not know anything about."

For all its fearless honesty, The Brutal Truth is throughout an affirmation of life. As Harnisch says, "I write and publish what I want and what I feel, no matter what mood or state of mind I am in, but I always do my best to keep things positive." After all, he knows that he is "a legitimate, loving, grateful, and spiritual human being who deserves to be loved and accepted and who deserves to make decisions, to make mistakes, and to be forgiven."

The Brutal Truth shows that it is by acknowledging the schizophrenic experience that we can come to understand and deal with it. Harnisch's essays offer daring descriptions of what it is like to live--moment upon moment--with schizophrenia. These essays are written to help others undergoing mental disorders. They will also help those who want to better understand what their loved ones are going through so that they can help them more effectively and more compassionately.

But these essays are not just for those affected by psychiatric disorders. All readers will feel enriched after spending time with Harnisch in this extraordinary and too often untold schizophrenic world. As Harnisch says, "We schizophrenics, through our psychosis--our delusions, our hallucinations, our reality--create or develop a story." Seldom has the schizophrenic story been told with such unflinching honesty and truth.
19
Nov

When We Were Invincible by Jonathan Harnisch

When We Were Invincible by Jonathan Harnisch is written in the vein of Catcher in the Rye or The World According to Garp, When We Were Invincible is a coming-of-age novella, which details the experiences of outsider Georgie Gust navigating the fictional St. Michael’s Academy, a prestigious East Coast boarding school. Georgie suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome and early onset schizophrenia, which makes his journey all the more poignant. In addition to When We Were Invincible, I have written several screenplays and the semi-autobiographical novel, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography. My own diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome and other mental illnesses informs my work and helps educate the public on what it is to live with these disabilities.

19
Nov

Glad You’re Not Me by Jonathan Harnisch

Glad You're Not Me, takes the act of transgression to another level. Harnisch, the author himself, discovers he has been fictionalized as a character in an old friend's chapbook, and decides to come out of the woodwork as a real person, The Mentally Ill Artist, in this explicit transgressive reaction chapbook.

19
Nov

CHANCE ENCOUNTER: SEXUAL DEVIANCE IN “SEX, DRUGS, AND SCHIZOPHRENIA” BY JONATHAN HARNISCH

The collected writings of Jonathan Harnisch mark a magnificent contribution to the public understanding of mental illness through a masterpiece of transgressive fiction with a heart. The general reader is finally able to see mainstream literary author Jonathan Harnisch at his best. Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia contain the works of 2014, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography and Second Alibi: The Banality of Life, in one complete streaming narrative. The monumental scale of Harnisch’s achievement through adversity flourishes and can now be appreciated in this diverse, invaluable, and thought-provoking collection of fragmented fiction, which will make your brain spin as Harnisch's sense of the inner machinations within the human experience spring into life through the written word. It forces one to question reality and step into another world wanting the protagonist and his alter ego to get it together and be okay. The author reveals himself through a series of alibis in the day-to-day meetings of multiple personalities, a corner of psychiatry that is hardly understood, and shedding light on the experiences of schizophrenia in a language that the non-sufferer can understand, albeit from the author who suffers himself. Not for the faint of heart, this fictionalized account of a disparate mind triumphs.