by Marc Summers with Eric Hollander
J P Tarcher, 1999
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on May 20th 2000
This chatty book is the story of not just Marc Summers' experience of obsessive compulsive disorder but also his rise in the entertainment business. The first chapter is an account of Summers' appearance on the Jay Leno show where he got into a pie fight with Burt Lancaster. We also hear about his successes in becoming host to Nickelodeon's Double Dare and the cable talk show Biggers and Summers. He explains that his dream is to have a network TV show, and that he was almost chosen as the question-master for Hollywood Squares. He comes across as an ambitious nice guy who assumes that other people would be interested in his career.
Maybe because I have never had cable TV, I had never previously heard of Marc Summers. I'm not even a fan of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno -- Letterman's quirkiness has always been more appealing to me. So I didn't find it very easy to identify with Summers' trials and triumphs. His blandness seems to permeate the writing style of the book. Maybe it's the influence of the publisher's copy editors, but apart from the gushing and slightly incoherent acknowledgements section, the writing lacks character. The short sentences and formulaic turns of phrase lead to a sense that OCD is an inconvenience rather than a major mental disorder.
Nevertheless, the main point of the book is to describe how Summers came to recognize that he has OCD, and the treatment he eventually received. Psychiatrist Dr. Eric Hollander was a guest on Summers' talk show, and Summers realized that his eccentric behavior fit the pattern of OCD. Their relationship lasted, and Hollander came to be a co-author of Everything in its Place. Summers found both behavior therapy and psychopharmacology useful. During the course of the book Summers gives both an explanation of the nature of OCD and the different treatments available, so it serves as an introduction to the topic. He focuses on the biological and genetic components of OCD, and while he acknowledges that the symptoms often get worse during times of stress, he does not give any space to the idea that OCD may also be an expression of underlying emotional conflict.
The most interesting theme in this book is how OCD causes not just suffering, but seems also to enhance persistence and perfectionism which have helped Summers in his career. While considerable attention has been paid to the link between manic depression and creativity (such as Jamison's Touched With Fire), less has been paid to OCD and helpful character traits. Summers does a good job of illustrating this issue.
While the best popular introduction to OCD is still The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing, those people who think of Marc Summers as a celebrity my find his book worth reading.