Short-ish novel with psychologically diagnosable main character?
January 8, 2014 9:15 AM   Subscribe

For an abnormal psych class I have to read a novel with a main character that has a DSM-5 diagnosable disorder and then diagnose them based on the book. One problem: all the good ones are probably already claimed.

I had to get my choices in by an exact time yesterday if I wanted a chance of being the first to claim a particular book, but as I was in meetings all day yesterday I couldn't get to it. So the obvious choices may be taken.

Also, ideally this would be something that would not take me a ridiculous amount of time to read since I have to have the paper written about 4 weeks from now.

Throw some titles at me!

Thanks ask.mefi!
posted by MonsieurBon to Education (68 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Have fun with that one!
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:16 AM on January 8 [12 favorites]


The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
posted by Rock Steady at 9:18 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I don't have any suggestions but can you do non-fiction? That might open way more possibilities up.
posted by randomination at 9:18 AM on January 8


Jerry Kosiński, Cockpit. You'll get an 'A', but lose some sleep.
posted by thelonius at 9:20 AM on January 8


I'd think that just about anything by Chuck Palahniuk would fit the bill.
posted by shallowcenter at 9:22 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


In Motherless Brooklyn the narrator has Tourette's.
posted by something something at 9:22 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis. It's a cinch and for a bonus, it's hilarious.
posted by janey47 at 9:23 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Dix Steele in In A Lonely Place
posted by dortmunder at 9:23 AM on January 8


The Pleasure Of My Company, Steve Martin.
posted by bac at 9:27 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


The Debt to Pleasure by John Lancaster. Not a hard diagnosis!
posted by feathermeat at 9:30 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Locke & Key, first 2 volumes
posted by tel3path at 9:30 AM on January 8


Must be fiction. The exact wording is "a fictional novel," which I take as "a work of fiction" rather than "a novel that doesn't exist," since it would be difficult for me to read something that doesn't exist.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:35 AM on January 8 [15 favorites]


Tim Krabbe's "The Vanishing" (the basis for the excellent Dutch-French movie and the abhorrent American remake). Short, sweet, unlikely to be claimed, LIKELY to give you the heebie-jeebies forever. No lie: I keep my copy in the basement because I don't want to be too close to it.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:36 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Survivor guilt has been removed from the DSM-IV and recategorized as a symptom of PTSD, so you could do Frederik Pohl's Gateway and discuss the recategorization as well.

Bonus: Much of the book is the protagonist's conversations with his artificially intelligent therapist, Sigfrid von Shrink.

I would figure Fight Club is taken by now.
posted by Kakkerlak at 9:37 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


White Oleander. Mother is textbook (I won't do your homework for you and tell you what, but you'll know fairly quickly). Some of the foster mothers are as well. It's a fast, pulpy read, despite the length.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:37 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


The Talented Mr Ripley
She's Come Undone
We Need to Talk About Kevin
The God of War
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:38 AM on January 8 [5 favorites]


I did this for Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, which only helps you if you've read it before, as it's not short.
posted by coppermoss at 9:41 AM on January 8


Notes from the Underground would be a shorter Dostoevsky pick.
posted by decathexis at 9:43 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


If alcoholism counts for this assignment (I know it's in the DSM-IV, not sure about V) then The Lost Weekend is a good short book. Extra bonus: it's from 1945 and as such will not be as popular as more recent books.
posted by elizardbits at 9:45 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I haven't read the book but when I watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss had definite symptoms of PTSD. Not sure if they were as explicitly described in the book as they were shown in the movie though.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:47 AM on January 8


I had this exact assignment for an Abnormal Psych class I took in college ten years ago (you at NYU?). I wrote about Holden Caulfield. Not sure if he's so obvious of a choice that he'd be taken by now.

Also, "The Yellow Wall-Paper" is very short and about a woman with post-partum depression/psychosis.
posted by millipede at 9:50 AM on January 8


Prep.
posted by salvia at 9:51 AM on January 8


The Dinner by Herman Koch is a quick read.
posted by matildaben at 9:51 AM on January 8


The Wide Sargasso Sea
From
Amazon:
The fortieth anniversary reissue of the best-selling "tour de force" (Walter Allen, New York Times Book Review).

Jean Rhys's reputation was made upon the publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into the light one of fiction's most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

A sensual and protected young woman, Antoinette Cosway grows up in the lush natural world of the Caribbean. She is sold into marriage to the coldhearted and prideful Rochester, who succumbs to his need for money and his lust. Yet he will make her pay for her ancestors' sins of slaveholding, excessive drinking, and nihilistic despair by enslaving her as a prisoner in his bleak English home.

In this best-selling novel Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.
posted by spunweb at 9:57 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is excellent and an easy quick read. Or was that one of the obvious ones that's been taken?
posted by K.P. at 9:59 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I also think Guillermo del Toro's Strain series. In the last book it's pretty clear the son who's now a vampire has OCD.
posted by spunweb at 10:00 AM on January 8


The Killer Inside Me is a very quick read, though so on point that it is likely taken.

I'm not totally sure what qualifies as DSM-5, but Bonjour Tristesse is enjoyable, relatively unknown, and around 150 pages, and I suspect it'd be fun to dissect.
posted by susanvance at 10:01 AM on January 8


I did this exact same exercise back in college! I seem to remember getting a very bad mark for trying to diagnose KITT from Knight Rider with something. So there's a data point.

Dracula, and especially Mina's bedroom scene has always seemed ripe for this kind of thing.
posted by cromagnon at 10:02 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


The Rosie Project
posted by K.P. at 10:05 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:05 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley, one of the characters is very depressed. Also it's a good easy to read book.
posted by fshgrl at 10:08 AM on January 8


Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Marvin the Robot is depressed, Zaphod is hugely narcissistic


And man, there has got to be a TON to work with in any of Stephen King's books!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:11 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I haven't read the book but when I watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss had definite symptoms of PTSD. Not sure if they were as explicitly described in the book as they were shown in the movie though.

The third book, Mockingjay, is actually much more focused on the PTSD if I remember correctly. Not sure if you can get away with using a YA novel, but it's a very fast read.
posted by Safiya at 10:20 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


If you are looking to not do the same as a classmate, if I were you I'd be tempted to look in to young adult books, ones where all kinds of silly bizzare things happen that, if read as an adult, would seem preposterous and insane. Take a kids book and totally take it WAY too seriously. Like the Neverending Story or something like that. Clearly they are having hallucinations, etc. Peter Pan may work too, or Anne of Green Gables. And man, I'll be damned if there isn't something seriously fucked up with Willy Wonka...

Voldemort in Harry Potter may be an interesting one as well.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:20 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


We Need To Talk About Kevin is a FANTASTIC book and would fit this perfectly. Although it was made into a movie I don't think the book was mega-bestseller popular so it might not be taken.
posted by radioamy at 10:30 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Now that the DSM-V has listed Hoarding Disorder as a distinct diagnosis for the first time, how about Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow?
posted by third rail at 10:31 AM on January 8


Ian McEwan's Amsterdam might fit the bill, although the characters may not be as easily diagnosable as some of these other suggestions. (Also, it's pretty dark.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:36 AM on January 8


Seconding "The Yellow Wallpaper" (if a short story is acceptable) or Homer and Langley.
posted by scody at 10:37 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I think it's widely accepted that Sherlock Holmes suffered from Bipolar Disorder, probably Type 2. When he's investigating a case, he's in a hypomanic state.

I would suggest "The Sign of Four", which is the one that begins and ends with Holmes injecting cocaine to treat the blues.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:56 AM on January 8


Philip Roth's "The Humbling" has 140 pages with large letters and lots of whitespace. I'm no expert but the protagonist, an aging ex-actor, has clearly one or more psychological issues which might fit the bill. There is also another character with a troubled past.

Ken Kesey's "One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest". Besides the obvious candidates/patients, Nurse Ratched might be an interesting subject to discuss.
posted by KMB at 10:58 AM on January 8


Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a quick read and a very clever idea for a novel.

Me & Emma Don't read the reviews, too many spoilers.

The Hour I First Believed

I know this much is true is a little on the long side but very good.

I know I have others in my head, but they aren't coming to me right now!
posted by maxg94 at 11:03 AM on January 8


You are in for a treat: The Patrick Melrose Novels (I believe there are seven) by Edward St. Aubyn. They are short, brilliant, chilling, and deeply psychological. I'm jealous -- I wish I were just embarking on them!
posted by thinkpiece at 11:14 AM on January 8


Kanehara Hitomi's Snakes and Earrings.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:31 AM on January 8


I just finished reading The Goldfinch and had a really interesting conversation with a friend trying to diagnose the main character. We didn't really come to a conclusive answer, but I bet it would give you lots of material to work with.
posted by lunasol at 11:36 AM on January 8


Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
posted by valeries at 11:42 AM on January 8


The Perks of Being a Wallflower
A Kind of Intimacy
Don't Go
The Family Fang
posted by maxg94 at 12:02 PM on January 8


Also, Emma Donoghue's Room.

Beautiful and disturbing.
posted by jrochest at 12:03 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Someone mentioned Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend above, and I know why. I'd recommend either of Matthew Dicks's other books for this assignment--their main characters are both diagnosable. It's pretty overt in the Amazon description what Milo from Unexpectedly, Milo has, and I'd argue that Martin from Something Missing has it too. (I wonder about Dicks himself, honestly.) Something Missing is actually my favorite of the three--it's refreshingly different and Martin's mind process is fascinating.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:15 PM on January 8


I'm certain The Trajectory of Dreams isn't taken, and it would be great for this project! It's a psychological thriller written from the perspective of a character suffering from mental illness. Short too, at 260 pages, and an easy read.
posted by geeky at 12:46 PM on January 8


I came to suggest We Need to Talk About Kevin. It is both an amazing read and perfect for the assignment.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:19 PM on January 8


Silas Marner is pretty short.
posted by yarrow at 1:23 PM on January 8


Oh and Living Dead Girl. It's about a girl who is kidnapped and abused and her abuser forces her to help him plan another kidnapping. It's a chilling, short read. It's MAYBE 120 pages.
posted by spunweb at 1:56 PM on January 8


Is Catcher in the Rye too obvious?
posted by freezer cake at 2:09 PM on January 8


Is it possible this is a trick question? At best, it would be diagnosing someone based on a secondhand or unquestioned self-reported account.
posted by tyrantkitty at 2:12 PM on January 8


Elmer Gantry
posted by Wordwoman at 2:13 PM on January 8


I should be more clear: I suggested that it might be a trick question because that might be another way to approach the assignment and/or your book selection. Not that it's a trick assignment in itself.
posted by tyrantkitty at 2:20 PM on January 8


Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt. A short, awesome, dark read.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 3:20 PM on January 8


One of the Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith. Bonus that they are entertaining.
posted by Athanasius at 3:42 PM on January 8


Maybe obvious, but Bartleby, the Scrivener.
posted by chrisulonic at 5:23 PM on January 8


Leaving Las Vegas
posted by easy, lucky, free at 6:31 PM on January 8


portnoy's complaint
posted by bruce at 6:48 PM on January 8


Set This House In Order, by Matt Ruff

DSM-5 qualified!
posted by Gorgik at 7:49 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Berg is a pretty quick and pretty obviously insane book. It's obscure enough that I don't think anyone would have claimed it by now.
posted by ltisz at 2:50 AM on January 9


Peter Handke's The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick might be pretty interesting—it begins with a murder and then unravels into something like a breakdown of reference/capacity for meaning in the main character. I don't know what specifically is meant to be wrong with him, but that's what might make it more interesting—it's not like you're repeating something that the author obviously put in there, so it would be a genuine case of diagnosis.
posted by felix grundy at 9:34 AM on January 9


Thanks so much everyone!
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:18 AM on January 9


The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. Probably any of Anne Tyler's books actually.
posted by marsha56 at 10:24 AM on January 9


Klaus Kinski, "I Need Love". Narcissism, psychopathy, sex addiction, et al.
posted by meadowlark lime at 11:32 AM on January 9


Confessions of a Crap Artist -- by Philip K Dick
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 9:01 PM on January 9


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