Happy pub day to Carmiel Banasky’s The Suicide of Claire Bishop, which is now available.
Greenwich Village, 1959. Claire Bishop sits for a portrait—a gift from her husband—only to discover that what the artist has actually depicted is Claire’s suicide. Haunted by the painting, Claire is forced to redefine herself within a failing marriage and a family history of madness. Shifting ahead to 2004, we meet West, a young man with schizophrenia who is obsessed with a painting he encounters in a gallery: a mysterious image of a woman’s suicide. Convinced it was painted by his ex-girlfriend, West constructs an elaborate delusion involving time-travel, Hasidism, art-theft, and the terrifying power of representation. When the two characters finally meet, in the present, delusions are shattered and lives are forever changed.
I suppose I did a lot of asking permission in order to write this book. I had two friends who were diagnosed with schizophrenia and who had very similar experiences. They told me about their episodes. I was struck by the similarity. I was struck also by my own reaction, which was partly of fear—how my extraordinarily functional, brilliant friends could suddenly have brains so suddenly (it seemed to me) out of their own control. And finally, I was struck by the fact that I was so struck: I hadn’t read experiences like these in literature before, especially not in the first person. I wanted to write characters they could recognize (though West is completely different from both of them in most other ways). More importantly, I wanted to write a character with schizophrenia who is as relatable, loveable, and familiar as any character without schizophrenia to any reader who has or has not had experience with mental illness. I wanted to portray a whole human, schizophrenia being one of many characteristics.