Ned Zeman had it all - a career that was going well - he'd just landed a job as an editor at Vanity Fair magazine, a wonderful family, a fantastic group of friends and no lack of female company.
Was it the move? The pressure to succeed in his new position? His somewhat conflicted relationship with his latest girlfriend? Zeman found himself floundering - he was in the grip of a severe depression, soon unable to function. He sought help from therapists, medication and hospitalization. As the depression refused to be shifted and his life was spiralling out of control, Zeman decided to use what many think is a treatment of last resort - electroconvulsive therapy. You and I would probably refer to it as shock therapy with images of Nurse Ratched and Jack Nicholson springing to mind.
He is warned that the one serious side effect is memory loss. It is usually short term, with no lasting problems.
Not so in Ned Zeman's case. His amnesia is pretty much all encompassing. Not such a great thing for a man who makes his living as a writer and reporter. Rules of the Tunnel is Zeman's memoir of his "brief period of madness", reconstructed with help from friends, family, emails, notes and his own brief glimpses into his memory banks.
"You are an amnesiac. A person with impaired memory. In a major way. As in "Where are my pants?" and "What the hell am I doing in Yorba Linda?" As in today is June 15, 2008 and yesterday was January 15, 2007. As in "Where'd my f***ing life go?" and " I did what? When?"
At first the second person narrative annoyed me, until I thought it and realized that this made perfect sense. Without memories, it is if he is writing about someone else's life. This style adds to the sense of detachment.
I found Zeman's recounting of his compulsion to write about those who pushed the boundaries, living on the edge such as Timothy Treadwell, who thought he was 'one with the bears' - until they ate him, fascinating. He seemed to be searching for answers for himself through the exploration of other's lives.
Zeman's recovery is due in a large part to his 'support team'. His circle of friends are unbelievably supportive in helping Ned find his way back. I think their reactions and actions affected me more than Ned's situation. Again, the writing style seemed to put him at a distance from this reader. But, really, can one critique a memoir? This is someone's life that we are privy to. I applaud Zeman for opening up about his struggle and recovery. And encourage everyone to recognize those that could use someone to really ask "How are you?"
"Rules of the Tunnel:
Get up. Get the blood flowing. go somewhere. anywhere. Except to the shooting range or Ohio. Call someone, anyone. Some fifty-five million Americans have a mood disorder and every one of them feels a little less alone when the meet a fellow traveler.
Resistance is futile.Adapt or die.
The future is yours.
These are the rules of the tunnel."
Check out what others on the TLC tour thought. And thanks to Gotham Books a division of Penguin Books USA, I have a copy of Rules of the Tunnel to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Sat. Sept 10th at 6 pm EST.