Brief Lives

Two true stories about parents losing children, one to death, the other to madness

Marion Ettlinger

Greenberg's child was pronounced psychotic at 15.

The mid-1960s to the mid-1970s were the heyday of the crazy-girl book: books by and about young women who lost their minds. Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Joanne Greenberg's haunting I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Go Ask Alice, Sybil. There were books about crazy boys too, of course, such as Mark Vonnegut's The Eden Express. But that's just boys. Everybody knows they're crazy. There was something disturbingly, voyeuristically hypnotic about those hippie Ophelias--electrode paste on their temples beneath their center-parted hair, Jefferson Airplane on the sound track, psychedelic chaos in their brains.

The genre they founded has lived on,...

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