Author Gaines recalls his mental illness treatment

One of These Things First by Steven Gaines; © 2016 Delphinium Books; ISBN 9781883-285715; 196 pages; $14.95.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – If you like a story well told, with perhaps a smidgen of name-dropping, you’ll be entertained by author/ columnist Steven Gaines’ recollections of his tumultuous adolescence.

It was a period when he tried to commit suicide, was sent a tony psychiatric hospital, found that a fellow patient was the husband of Mary Martin of Peter Pan fame, and as his acolyte, began a process in which he  grew from a self-loathing homosexual to a creative and successful writer who accepted who he was.

We learn of the family of Gaines, who had changed their names from Goldberg—and an unorthodox family it was.  His grandfather, for example, had a wife and a live-in-mistress, who became best friends. Later in life, the grandfather left them both for a bank teller who could be his grandchild, with whom he fathered another child.  Gaines’ father and his mother fought constantly.  And, according to his Freudian psychiatrist, Gaines must have been irreparably damaged by sleeping in the same room with his parents during his toddlerhood.  Watching parents having sex can be traumatizing for an infant—hey, for anyone, for that matter.

What makes Gaines’ memoir so enjoyable is his easy flowing descriptive writing style that makes you feel that you are in the room with him, experiencing the events of his life as vividly as he did.  He has a wonderful talent.   He brings alive the streets of Brooklyn where he lived, and the wards of Manhattan’s Payne Whitney Hospital, where he was rehabilitated.

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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