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.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'