Pharmakon, By Dirk Wittenborn
Sunday 14 February 2010
Dr William T Friedrich is a neuropsychopharmacologist. It is a miserable winter for the chestnut-haired 33-year-old: with four kids, $87 left in his bank account and only a week to go before Christmas, he drowns his self-absorption with beer. One day, however, he discovers happiness in a plant – or believes he does – and distils it into an antidepressant that he and colleagues test on rats.
This is 1950s America, where the craze for curing craziness has taken hold; a world in which happiness can be bought over the counter. But things go awry and, rather than endowing a new lease of life, Friedrich's drug leads to even further pottiness, and some untimely deaths.
Although the plot runs helter-skelter, often sliding off course like the wayward trajectories of his unstable characters, Dirk Wittenborn's prose is at times deliciously funny. Friedrich is apparently based on his own father, which lends veracity to his writing. He does struggle to keep control of the material but, thanks to the exuberance and wry intelligence of the writing, Pharmakon provides a rush of good feeling to read – a good book really can be great medicine.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 5 Denmark bans kosher and halal slaughter as minister says ‘animal rights come before religion’
Best TV shows on Netflix: 26 series to binge on
'Phallic symbols' found hidden in famous Pre-Raphaelite painting 'Isabella' by John Everett Millais
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace