He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him
Mimi Baird, Eve Claxton
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Soon to be a major motion picture, from Brad Pitt and Tony Kushner
A Washington Post Best Book of 2015
A mid-century doctor's raw, unvarnished account of his own descent into madness, and his daughter's attempt to piece his life back together and make sense of her own.
Texas-born and Harvard-educated, Dr. Perry Baird was a rising medical star in the late 1920s and 1930s. Early in his career, ahead of his time, he grew fascinated with identifying the biochemical root of manic depression, just as he began to suffer from it himself. By the time the results of his groundbreaking experiments were published, Dr. Baird had been institutionalized multiple times, his medical license revoked, and his wife and daughters estranged. He later received a lobotomy and died from a consequent seizure, his research incomplete, his achievements unrecognized.
Mimi Baird grew up never fully knowing this story, as her family went silent about the father who had been absent for most of her childhood. Decades later, a string of extraordinary coincidences led to the recovery of a manuscript which Dr. Baird had worked on throughout his brutal institutionalization, confinement, and escape. This remarkable document, reflecting periods of both manic exhilaration and clear-headed health, presents a startling portrait of a man who was a uniquely astute observer of his own condition, struggling with a disease for which there was no cure, racing against time to unlock the key to treatment before his illness became impossible to manage.
Fifty years after being told her father would forever be “ill” and “away,” Mimi Baird set off on a quest to piece together the memoir and the man. In time her fingers became stained with the lead of the pencil he had used to write his manuscript, as she devoted herself to understanding who he was, why he disappeared, and what legacy she had inherited. The result of his extraordinary record and her journey to bring his name to light is He Wanted the Moon, an unforgettable testament to the reaches of the mind and the redeeming power of a determined heart.
From the Hardcover edition.
other relatives came to see him. He sat for long hours talking with them. He had a work assignment somewhere in the place. I never knew just what he did. I considered him a good friend. There was a dark-complexioned young Italian, thin and delicate, black hair, deep brown eyes, and small of stature. Once I shook his hand and found his palm hot and moist. He ate very little and what he did eat, he ate hurriedly, getting in and out of the dining room very quickly. He sat all day, in a corner
good-looking blond, about twenty-five years of age, came up to see me a few times when I was extremely manic. We talked at great length. We played an imaginary game of chess, using a drawing of a chessboard, and relying upon our memory of the plays. He conceded me the game. “That’s the easiest game I’ve ever won,” I commented. Later we played a real game of chess on a real checkerboard with good chess pieces. He defeated me in the one game we played. On the ward was a pitiful old man, of
Mimi with her and they left. Gretta’s final remark was that they were going to The Country Club to skate. I went to the bar, consuming another Coca Cola. I decided to follow Gretta to The Country Club and went out to get a taxi. At The Country Club, I walked towards the skating pond, but I couldn’t find Gretta and the children and so returned to the clubhouse. As I came to the door, they were just leaving. “I’ll come back for you,” Gretta said. “Don’t bother,” I replied. Gretta left to go
achievement, it does make it difficult to accomplish much. Her whole adjustment is going to take time. I continued to ask my mother about my father. I kept repeating the question “Why?” Finally, she informed me that my father was “ill.” The words “manic-depressive psychosis” were used. I had no idea what this meant, and my mother refused to explain. After my mother remarried, it was as if I had lost both of my parents. My stepfather was very possessive of my mother and she was eager to please
determined to start his life over. A week later, he woke up in the hospital, severely beaten, but with no recollections of events. After he had recovered, he hitchhiked south, until he reached Galveston’s city limits. The police found him, disheveled and bloody, walking along the highway, whereupon he was soon transferred to Galveston State Hospital. Galveston State Hospital, 1949 Dr. Baird’s stay in the hospital was a long, rough and rugged one. It was punctuated by frequent moves from the