An interview with Kay Redfield Jamison

19 January 2015

As well as giving us a chance to read (or reread) some of the best works of literature from the past forty years, the advent of the Picador Classic series also seemed the perfect opportunity to ask the authors some big questions – about life and literature, their current obsessions and how times have changed.

Dr Kay Redfield Jamison is one of the foremost authorities on manic depression (bipolar disorder) – and has experienced its terrors and cruel allure first-hand. While pursuing her career in medicine, she was affected by the same exhilarating highs and catastrophic lows that afflicted many of her patients. An Unquiet Mind is a definitive examination of manic depression from both sides: doctor and patient, the healer and the healed. 

Here, she tells us about the writing that has made the greatest impression on her.

Where in the world do you find yourself returning to and why? 
Boston and Big Sur.

Tell us your favourite poem.
Poets, not poem: Robert Lowell, Thomas Hardy, Louis MacNeice, George Herbert, Edward Thomas.

What are you going to read next?
I'm going to reread Murder in the Cathedral by TS Eliot.

Which writing do you find yourself returning to?
Robert Lowell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Melville.

Which other author would you most like to have for dinner?
Not authors but Elizabeth I, Paul Robeson and my husband.

What’s your favourite fairytale or children’s book?
The Wind in the Willows.

And your favourite music or music genre?
Classical: Beethoven and Schubert.

What's your strongest childhood memory?
Getting my first puppy.

Favourite book?
Jude the Obscure, Sunset Song, Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, The Great Gatsby.

Two books you wish you had written.
Moby Dick, Doctor Zhivago.


An Unquiet MindAn Unquiet Mind (Picador Classic edition) is introduced by Andrew Solomon. Photo of Kay Redfield Jamison © Tom Wolff.

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