WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER: My Journey into Schizophrenia by Ross David Burke, edited by Richard Gates and Robin Hammond (Basic Books: $20; 254 pp.) Between 1% and 2% of the population suffers from schizophrenia, a mysterious, debilitating illness that probably relates to temporal and frontal lobe dysfunction of the central nervous system. Perhaps because the symptoms can often be frightening to watch, or perhaps because of all the skewed publicity, but whatever the reason, schizophrenia remains largely misunderstood by the general population.
Ross David Burke was an imaginative, rebellious, witty man from a middle-class Australian family. He was deeply idealistic, loyal, curious and sometimes self-pitying. He was also a paranoid schizophrenic. Burke committed suicide in 1985 at the age of 32, leaving behind a completed novel and a note requesting it be published along with "a separate reality besides my fantasy, a factual description." The result is "When The Music's Over." Hammond, a writer, and Gates, who was Burke's psychology professor, have put together a heavily footnoted edition of Burke's novel, accompanied by an informative clinical explanation of schizophrenia.
It's not quite fair to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of Burke as an author since separating his writing from his illness is almost impossible. However, the work is honest and coherent. "When The Music's Over" will provide insight to people with a schizophrenic in their lives as well as anyone interested in the illness.