978-0-452-27702-1 / 9780452277021

Twitch and Shout: A Touretter's Tale





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About the book:

Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by tics, physical jerks, and random shouts and noises that can include profanity and racial epithets. It's become relatively well known through the writings of neurologist Oliver Sacks (whose bestselling book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat includes several case studies of Touretters--as he dubbed them), and through the 1995 documentary Twitch and Shout, a film coauthored by Lowell Handler and Laurel Chiten, both of whom have the disorder.

Now Handler has written a book with the same name, an attempt to chronicle the disease from the inside, to explore the strange life and symptoms of a person who has discovered, as he puts it, that "the mind has a mind of its own." His personal odyssey includes many digressions into how the disorder has shaped the course of his relationships with his family, his career as a photojournalist, and his sense of purpose and belonging in society. He meets with other Touretters, including a professional basketball player, a medical doctor, and, in one of the book's most surreal episodes, an ex-military man who had served in a nuclear missile silo in charge of the launch keys. But while there is much honesty about the emotional impact of the disorder on an individual's life, Handler (who admits that he suffers from lifelong dyslexia) provides a severely fragmented narrative, jumping from episode to episode with little sense of closure or lessons learned. What's more, he's unable to give much insight into how it feels to have the disorder, or how the mind of someone with Tourette's differs from a nonsufferer. Still, some of his thoughts are intriguing (he posits, for example, that the great 18th-century author Samuel Johnson may have been a Touretter) and individual episodes ring with the resonance of hard-won truth. --John Longenbaugh

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