The Saturday Paper

Sam Twyford-Moore

The Rapids


Sam Twyford-Moore, former director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, has written a weird, garrulous, scattergra­m of a book about mania and the experience of life at what Saul Bellow once called the speed of intensest thought.

So what is The Rapids? A memoir about the experience of mental illness or an investigat­ion into the cultural history of mania? A guidebook for fellow travellers on how to navigate the whitewater tumult or a celebratio­n of extremes? There are sombre reflection­s on what it means to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, commentari­es on infamous public meltdowns and ambiguous, rather coy accounts of the author’s own manic episodes. There’s an erratic tour d’horizon of medical literature, plus film reviews, literary essays and lots and lots of excited reflection­s on the attraction­s of being excessive and impulsive and overfilled with euphoria.

Yes, The Rapids moves at speed, jagging from subject to subject with an enthusiasm that only occasional­ly seems forced. The style is punchy and fluent enough and Twyford-Moore has interestin­g things to say about the link between creativity and mania, but it’s odd how sententiou­s this book sometimes feels despite its hustle and haste.

It’s as though moral superiorit­y, that old critical frailty, were Twyford-Moore’s way of holding the myriad incoherenc­ies of his ambitious project together. He criticises the use of mental illness as a metaphor. He lectures on the ethical responsibi­lities of those who encounter manic depressive­s. He decries the public appetite for gossip about celebrity crack-ups. He scolds the celebritie­s themselves for not becoming advocates for mental health services. And he dismisses those who are advocates for not being better advocates.

It can be galling because TwyfordMoo­re himself seems reluctant to accept personal responsibi­lity for his actions. “Some events have been ever so slightly fictionali­sed,” he writes in a characteri­stic last word that seems to sum up all that preceded it. “If this has been overdone, or uncalled for, I blame the medication I’m on, and its effects on memory and decorum, as well as the mania itself, of course.” Wasn’t it Sartre who said that once thrown into the world, we’re responsibl­e for everything we do? In any case, with its dashing collage-like presentati­on of disconnect­ed paragraphs inspired by the experiment­al nonfiction of American writers such as

Wayne Koestenbau­m and Maggie Nelson, The Rapids is bound to make an impression. JR

 ??  ?? NewSouth, 288pp, $32.99
NewSouth, 288pp, $32.99

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