Read The Curative by Charlotte Randall Free Online
Book Title: The Curative|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 421 KB
v The author of the book: Charlotte Randall
Edition: Penguin Books
Date of issue: February 22nd 2001
ISBN 13: 9780140297539
City - Country: No data
Read full description of the books The Curative:When reading The Curative it is advisable to have a dictionary on hand: one of the narrator’s coping strategies was to find unique words that capture his observations of his penury in Bedlam: “Now for the food. The food is abominable. It is soft and all mixed together, unrecognizable. Pabulum.” And then there was floccinaucinihilipilification, the action or habit of estimating something as worthless, or possibly its antonym, haecceity, a word that defines thisness; and what about the technicolour word panchymagogue . . .
The dictionary describes curative as an adjective “able to cure disease” as in the curative properties of herbs and as a noun “a curative medicine or agent”.
Charlotte Randall’s novel The Curative begins with a frontispiece:
“When John Haslam was appointed apothecary to Bethlem Hospital in 1795 there were heated disagreements amongst mad-doctors about how lunatics should be managed. There were those who declared the insane were unmanageable without recourse to chains and straitjackets; others claimed that kindness and gentleness would sufficiently calm the lunatic so that he might more easily be cured. Haslam himself publicly claimed to have adopted the latter approach of ‘moral treatment’, yet an inspection of the dilapidated buildings in 1814 revealed lunatics in leg-irons, others lying naked on straw due to incontinence, and a number of lucid men and women who had been kept in chains for more than a decade.”
The theme of the adjective and noun is well annunciated on page-101:
“‘Yes, everything’s much better now,’ Porlock comments happily.
I stare at him incredulously. ‘So you think the treatment we now endure can be considered an improvement?’
‘There is science in it,’ Porlock replies.”
The science Porlock is referring to is extreme torture and the narrator observes its details and how he endures the suffering; it is spine-chilling, and in today’s context laughable to consider this is called science. But the science of today has shown how misdirected the science within my lifetime has progressed and yet stayed still at the same time. In my limited experience the most profound paper that characterizes this dichotomy is Professor Sir Martin Roth’s 1955 paper which described the first breakdown of senile patients in a psychiatric hospital into diagnostic groups: affective psychosis, senile psychosis, late paraphrenia, arteriosclerotic psychosis, and acute confusion.
The names might be different today but those five groups are the bread and butter of current practice in psychogeriatrics. Roth looked at the 472 patients admitted during the years 1934, 1936, 1948 and 1949 and investigated the 464 case records located, a remarkable feat in itself. The major analysis of the paper was the pattern of outcome between the five groups looked at in a number of different ways: discharged, inpatient, dead at 6-months and 2-years versus cohorts, age bands and gender. The pattern of outcome between the specific groups provided strong confirmation that affective psychosis, late paraphrenia and acute confusion were each entities largely independent of the two main causes of progressive dementia in old age: senile and arteriosclerotic psychosis. This profound conclusion, that seems so obvious today, promoted the importance of making the correct diagnosis to identify the therapeutic opportunities that were available to improve the prognosis; ECT was the only treatment introduced between the first two and the last two cohorts, but the paper was published in the dawn of antipsychotic and antidepressant medication becoming available. I note that the prognosis for delirium remains unchanged: at 6-months 38-of 450-patients were diagnosed with acute confusion; 19-patients had been discharged at 6-months, 15-had died and 4-were still inpatients; at 2-years the 4-inpatients had died. In other words, the mortality rate at 2-years follow-up was 50% and despite the advances in treatment made since then the prognosis for delirium is essentially unchanged3. Come back Porlock, all could be forgiven.
The storyline is not only a description of the most famous madhouse 200-years ago but a tale of the corrupt process that culminated in William Lonsdale’s incarceration and the strategy he used to resist the corrupt and cruel treatment meted out; there is a one-sided dialogue with his ‘more dead than alive’ room mate which carries the narrator’s tale; but the commentary is found in the sparring conversation the narrator creates with his main minder Porlock and the apothecary John Haslam who is the physician’s main representative for the treatment of the inmates. The truly horrific theme though is the belief in their science as being absolute knowledge and the defense of it’s beneficence, which has parallels today when proselytizing in Court in defense of a Compulsory Treatment Order under a Mental Health Act process. Is the science of 2014 any more advanced of that in 1814; I think not.
New Zealand has essentially done away with asylums and replaced the shelter and protection with medication and communal goodwill. The science of medication brings as many adverse effects as benefits; the science of communal goodwill brings as much neglect and abuse as it does dignity and autonomy; the curative of Bedlam has been replaced by the curative hiding in the suburbs behind a cloak of unaccountable science. Will the science of 2014 be as barbaric in 2214 as the science of The Curative in 1814? I think so.
Read information about the authorCharlotte Randall is the award-winning author of five novels. Her first, Dead Sea Fruit, won the South East Asian/South Pacific section of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first book and the Reed Fiction Award in 1995. Her much-praised second novel, The Curative, was join runner-up for the Deutz Medal for fiction at the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. What Happen Then, Mr Bones? (2004) and The Crocus Hour (2008) were finalists for the same award.
Randall was born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand and now lives in Christchurch with her husband and children.
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