Re-released with a new introduction, and to coincide with a film of the same title (directed by the author), Mad To Be Normal is the memoir R. D. Laing never lived to write. In the last two years of Laing’s life, he recorded hundreds of hours of conversation with Robert Mullan in which he was determined to be as frank and open as possible, and equally determined to ‘put the record straight’.
R. D. Laing wrote a number of books during the 1960s which rocked the foundations of conventional psychiatry and galvanized the imagination of millions of ordinary readers. His views were against the grain of conventional psychiatry – his existential approach to madness was controversial, and his work brought into focus matters of individual liberty and the importance of the social context of ‘illness’. The greatest accusation he suffered was that he idealised mental misery – something he consistently denied.
Mad to be Normal presents Laing’s own words, about his work and about his life. It is the most complete record on Laing, by Laing. Entertaining, maddening, surprising, impressive, occasionally scurrilous, and evoking a compelling portrait of the heady and sometimes self-regarding mood of the 1960s and early l970s, this books necessitates a reassessment of Laing and his work; work which is part of a lengthier and on-going process concerned with the routine care of those disturbed in mind.
Dr Robert Mullan is a film director, writer, and producer. He is the author of a number of books, including Are Mothers Really Necessary?, Social Workers: The Student’s View, and Moving Pictures: The Making of Letters to Sofija.