Mark Vonnegut

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Mark Vonnegut
Born (1947-05-11) May 11, 1947 (age 69)
Occupation Pediatrician, memoirist
Nationality American
Alma mater Swarthmore College, (1969)
Harvard Medical School
Genre Memoir
Notable works The Eden Express
Spouse Barbara Vonnegut
Children Mark Oliver Vonnegut Jr., Eli Vonnegut, Zachary Vonnegut
Relatives Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Edith Vonnegut

Mark Vonnegut (born May 11, 1947) is an American pediatrician and memoirist. He is the son of writer Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and his first wife, Jane Cox. He is the brother of Edith Vonnegut and Nanette Vonnegut. He described himself in the preface to his 1975 book as "a hippie, son of a counterculture hero, BA in religion, (with a) genetic disposition to schizophrenia."[1]:preface

Mark Vonnegut (whom his parents named after Mark Twain[2]) graduated from Swarthmore College in 1969. He briefly worked at Duthie Books and was also briefly chief of a 20-man detachment of special state police that provided the security for Boston State Hospital. During the Vietnam War, he filed an application with the draft board to be considered a conscientious objector, which was denied. After taking the psychological examination, he was given a psychiatric 4F classification and avoided conscription into the U.S. military.[1][page needed]

During his undergraduate years, he set out to become a Unitarian minister. He eventually abandoned that goal.[3]:33

He is the author of The Eden Express (1975), which describes his trip to British Columbia to set up a commune with his friends and his personal experiences with schizophrenia,[4] which at that time he attributed to stress, diet and in part, drug use. The book is widely cited as useful for those coping with schizophrenia. He married in 1975.[5] He has got a son, Eli James Vonnegut (b. 1980).[6][7] During this period, he lived mainly at the commune at Powell Lake, located 18 kilometers by boat from the nearest road or electricity. On February 14, 1971, he was diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and committed to Hollywood Hospital in Vancouver.[3]:37 Standard psychotherapy did not help him, and most of his doctors said his case was hopeless.

Vonnegut first attributed his recovery to orthomolecular megavitamin therapy and then wrote The Eden Express. However, it should be pointed out that in this book, he states that "approximately a third - improve without any treatment. Whatever shrink happens to be standing around when such remissions occur is usually willing to assume credit" pg. 267. From the book, one can see that he was trying to decide if it is the therapy or the ever changing medications that are the most effective for treatment. Vonnegut does not presently attribute his recovery to vitamins. In reality, such situations take years of trial and error treatment to figure out what actually is effective treatment since the diagnostic tools are based on statistics (a group of symptoms and how long they last and what is the age of the patient) making them inherently weak on predictably. This is made worse given the short duration of any treatment because of the prohibitive costs of longer term productive treatment. He subsequently studied medicine at Harvard Medical School and later came to the conclusion that he actually had bipolar disorder.[8] He is currently a pediatrician in Quincy, Massachusetts.[9]

Vonnegut published his second book, Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So, in 2010.[10] Like The Eden Express, it is autobiographical.[11]


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