Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What is Gene M. Heyman reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Gene M. Heyman, author of Addiction: A Disorder of Choice (Harvard University Press).

His entry begins:
Camus, Albert (1996). The First Man. New York: Vintage Books.

My reading tends toward nonfiction, but I often have a novel going too. Over the years, my favorites have been Dickens and Philip Roth. Yesterday I finished Albert Camus' posthumously published, unfinished, last novel, The First Man. My impression is that Camus was less than half way done with the story and was planning to go back, revise, delete, and fill in hastily sketched scenes and characters. Nevertheless, the book is a “must read.” I can't imagine anyone who would not find pleasure and inspiration in the main character, Jacques.

The novel is autobiographical, but told in the third person. Jacques grows up in an impoverished French-Arab neighborhood in Algiers. He shares a small, bare apartment with his nearly deaf-mute mother, a tyrannical grandmother, a madcap, possibly brain-damaged, uncle, and an older brother. The brother is one of several blank spots in the book. We learn virtually nothing about him, although he is nearly the same age as Jacques. Possibly Camus planned to flesh him out after the narration was more underway. At the age of one, Jacques loses his father in World War I. The Camus family never recovers. They have few possessions, little family lore, no cultural traditions, and....[read on]
Gene M. Heyman is a research psychologist at McLean Hospital, a Lecturer in Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology
at Boston College.

Among the early praise for Heyman's Addiction:
We have a justice system that treats drug use as a malevolent act of will (to be punished) and a medical profession that treats it as an unfortunate disease (to be cured). Who is right? In a magnificent new book, Addiction: A Disorder of Choice, Gene M. Heyman, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School, argues that it is not his fellow medical professionals.... Heyman shows that the ordinary dynamics of human decision-making are sufficient to bring addiction into line with what we know about other, non-addictive behaviors..."No one chooses to be an addict," as the saying goes. Mr Heyman shows that this is wrong--or at least that this is the wrong way of getting at the problem... Maybe nobody would choose to be an addict. But being an addict is not what substance abusers are choosing. They are choosing a momentary action, not a lifetime identity. This is a rich book that reverberates far beyond the field of addiction studies. Attentive readers will find in it lessons about debt-financed consumerism, environmental spoliation and the whole, vast range of self-destructive behavior that we engage in out of self-interest.
--Christopher Caldwell, Financial Times
Read an excerpt from Addiction, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Writers Read: Gene M. Heyman.

--Marshal Zeringue