Warriors B2G1 Free

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    Lists | May 19, 2015

    Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite: IMG Nine Funny Animal Videos That Will Help You Write Your Novel!

    If you thought watching funny animal videos was a bad habit, a time-sink, a distraction from writing your novel, well, you're probably right. But if... Continue »
    1. $18.20 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

      War of the Encyclopaedists

      Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite 9781476775425

Qualifying orders ship free.
New Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Hawthorne Psychology- General Disorders
11 Local Warehouse Biography- General
25 Remote Warehouse Biography- Social Scientists and Psychologists

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness


The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness Cover

ISBN13: 9781401309442
ISBN10: 1401309445
All Product Details


What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

crowyhead, September 8, 2009 (view all comments by crowyhead)
I found this memoir to be truly impressive. There are many memoirs that detail the experience of depression and bipolar disorder. There are memoirs on alcoholism, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But there are very few that give the reader insight into what it is like to be schizophrenic.

Elyn Saks is an accomplished woman: she graduated from Oxford and Yale, and is a tenured law professor. She has also struggled with schizophrenia since her late teens, and relates her experiences in such a way that the reader will never think of schizophrenia in the same way again.

People tend to think of schizophrenics and dangerous, incoherent, low-functioning, "just plain crazy." Saks has been all of those things (although mainly she was a danger to herself), but only a small percentage of the time. Most of the time, she is at least as sane as the people around her, sometimes moreso.

The prose here is mainly pretty workmanlike, but Saks does a good job of expressing what it feels like to be having psychotic thoughts and feelings, as well as the experience of being hospitalized and living with the stigma of mental illness. She is a big proponent of psychoanalysis, which is a form of talk therapy that I'm personally leery of, but she does make a good case for the effectiveness of talk therapy in conjunction with medication for those with thought disorders as well as mood disorders (for a very long time, it was thought that talk therapy was basically useless for those who have thought disorders like schizophrenia). Recommended.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Annie Wright, March 30, 2009 (view all comments by Annie Wright)
I work in the court system, and see a good number of involuntary commitment cases, most of which feature individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. So many of these cases come through, and it is easy to become jaded and indifferent toward people living with this illness. Thankfully, Saks wrote this book. Her story is incredible, and her ability to relate and explain what goes through her head during episodes is remarkable. I don't like to throw the word "inspiring" around, but her story is just that.

Ultimately, however, I was overwhelmed by the book's central message: how many more resources mentally ill people truly need. Saks has managed to control her illness and succeed enormously despite (and, perhaps in some ways, because of) it. However, as she admits, she had so many resources and so much support to help her get through it--and even with that, it took her decades to gain some control over her illness.

In all events, this is a truly eye-opening book that deserves a large readership.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Elizabeth Romero, March 16, 2009 (view all comments by Elizabeth Romero)
An amazing book of such courage and inspiration..
given that I myself have a mental illness and am constantly trying to stay afloat.. on the boat ..this book means a lot ..
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(8 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
Shoshana, December 1, 2008 (view all comments by Shoshana)
In the tradition of Kay Redfield Jamison, Elyn Saks, a person with a major psychiatric disorder, presents her own history from childhood to her present status as a successful professional specializing in that disorder. In Saks's case, that disorder is schizophrenia, a diagnosis with a much poorer prognosis for a successful adulthood than many others.

Saks's account is both readable and meticulous, with only a few editing problems. She is careful neither to overdramatize nor underplay her psychotic episodes or her progress and great accomplishments. Anyone who has been forcibly put into mechanical restraints in the last couple of decades and been evaluated frequently for a lower level intervention (or has successfully pursued a grievance if they were not) has Saks to thank for her legal advocacy.

I would have liked to know more about the quality and character of her relationships with family and friends, but recognize that memoirists may choose to protect aspect of their own and others' privacy. I also would have liked to have a better sense of her psychosis. This is an area where Saks tells more than she shows.

Saks suggests, and I agree, that there may be many causes of schizophrenic spectrum disorders; this in turn implies that different people will have different constellations of disordered thinking, some more pernicious, some more dangerous, and some more treatable. When she is psychotic, Saks experiences what seems to be poor judgment, low insight, disorganization, and a relatively consistent set of paranoid delusions. At the same time, she seems to have good or very good responses to several medications, to recompensate quickly, to return to her high level of baseline functioning, to maintain meaningful and complex relationships, and to have a good emotional range. Since she also describes a variety of other physical problems, it would not surprise me if her schizophrenia were related to a greater underlying physical problem.

As a side note, I enjoyed reading about Saks's long friendship with her law school friend Steven Behnke. I'd be interested to know how he would tell the story of his friendship with Saks, as Ann Patchett did with Lucy Grealy in Truth and Beauty.

I am not sure why Saks's diagnosis is schizophrenia rather than schizoaffective disorder. The big difference between these schizophrenic spectrum diagnoses is the presence of a mood disorder simultaneous with an episode of the thought disorder, and Saks is often diagnosed as depressed while she apparently is also psychotic. Since she works in psychiatry, I assume that she is accurate and that the evidence for this differential diagnosis is not reported in her memoir.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
 1-4 of 4

Product Details

Saks, Elyn R
Hyperion Books
Saks, Elyn R.
Social Scientists & Psychologists
Scientists & Psychologists
Personal Memoirs
Psychopathology - Schizophrenia
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.1875 in 10.4 oz
Age Level:
from 18

Other books you might like

  1. Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
    Used Trade Paper $4.50
  2. Manic: A Memoir
    Used Book Club Paperback $5.95
  3. Scattershot: My Bipolar Family Used Trade Paper $2.75
  4. Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of...
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  5. The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity Sale Trade Paper $8.98
  6. Is There No Place on Earth for Me?
    Used Trade Paper $5.50

Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Social Scientists and Psychologists
Biography » Women
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General Disorders
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Psychopathology » Schizophrenia
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$16.00 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Hyperion - English 9781401309442 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Saks managed to achieve both professional and personal success in spite of being diagnosed as schizophrenic and given a "grave" prognosis. In this memoir, she frankly and movingly discusses the disease, and the treatments that helped her to cope and thrive.
"Synopsis" by , Elyn R. Saks is an esteemed professor, lawyer, and psychiatrist and is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Law School, yet she has suffered from schizophrenia for most of her life, and still has ongoing major episodes of the illness. The Center Cannot Hold is the eloquent, moving story of Elyn's life, from the first time that she heard voices speaking to her as a young teenager, to attempted suicides in college, through learning to live on her own as an adult in an often terrifying world. Saks discusses frankly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, the voices in her head telling her to kill herself (and to harm others); as well the incredibly difficult obstacles she overcame to become a highly respected professional. This beautifully written memoir is destined to become a classic in its genre.

The title is a line from "The Second Coming," a poem by William Butler Yeats, which is alluded to in the book.

  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.