Another childhood legend demolished

To be fair, I was always extremely dubious about this one:

First published in 1973, “Sybil” remains in print after selling over 6 million copies in the U.S. alone. A work of high Midwestern gothic trash, “Sybil” might have been purpose-built to enthrall 14-year-old girls of morbid temperament (which is probably the majority of 14-year-old girls, come to think of it). I would not be surprised to learn that it is circulated as avidly on middle-school playgrounds today as it was in my own youth. My sisters, my friends and I all devoured it, discussing its heroine’s baroque sufferings in shocked whispers before promptly forgetting all about it until the TV movie starring Sally Field came along.

That should have been the end of “Sybil,” another flash-in-the-pan “true life” paperback shocker that people sorta believe but mostly not — rather like “The Amityville Horror.” Instead, the book, written by journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber, became the catalyst for a psychotherapeutic movement that ruined many lives, beginning with the woman whose story it claims to tell.

If I recall correctly, there was a whole Christian sub-genre constructed around the principle that multiple personalities were demonic. However, I didn’t buy into that either, mostly because I found it rather difficult to believe that demons could possibly be so mundane and uninteresting. To paraphrase the immortal words of Bob Newhart, I find it hard to believe that the Prince of Darkness has spent the last twenty years as a frumpy suburban housewife.

And no, I’m not calling your dog a liar!