Jun 04 2022
Lynne Kaufmann and Phil Cousineau – Divine Madness & The Lost Notebooks of Sisyphus

Lynne Kaufmann and Phil Cousineau – Divine Madness & The Lost Notebooks of Sisyphus

Presented by Book Passage at Book Passage, Corte Madera

"Cal . . . wants to move back in with me into our old apartment on 67th Street across from Central Park. It's where we lived for most of the twenty-one years of our marriage until he left me for Caroline. It's where I've lived for the past seven years without Cal."

Cal is purportedly Robert Lowell, the sixth Poet Laureate of the United States, and the speaker, "Lizzie," is Elizabeth Hardwick, a writer and critic whose true-life partnership with Lowell was marked by his mental illness and desertion.

Yet award-winning playwright Lynne Kaufman's spare, poetic novel Divine Madness is far deeper — and more disturbing — than a harrowing account of a famously unhappy marriage.

As the fictional "manuscript" progresses, Lizzie's persona of humiliated, martyred wife gradually dissolves into a rich labyrinth of references — from her friendships with Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt to her memories of the Civil Rights movement and her Southern childhood, from the Holocaust to King Lear — that may (or may not) illuminate the complex dynamics of attachment.

In this enigmatic deconstruction of an age-old tragedy, Kaufman has composed an intriguing and intense elegy that marks the shadowlands where fiction, reality, and writerly personas converge.


Lynne Kaufman is the author of three novels (Slow HandsWild Women’s Weekend, and Taking Flight). She is also an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced across the country. Lynne's play "Divine Madness," which ran at the Marsh last year, gained national recognition (see coverage in the SF Chronicle). She transposed the play into a poetic novel that traces the turbulent marriage and divorce of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick in Hardwick's fictional diary.


For nearly three thousand years, King Sisyphus of Corinth has been one of the most compelling characters in world mythology.

The iconic image of Sisyphus putting his shoulder to the boulder and pushing it to the summit of a mountain in the Underworld is recognizable the world over. To many poets and philosophers, from Homer and Aeschylus to Lucille Clifton and Albert Camus, the rebel hero has been a powerful symbol for hard-earned wisdom and the struggle to transcend suffering, while more skeptical commentators have interpreted Sisyphus' defiance of the gods as futile and doomed.

In this mythopoetic novel, Phil Cousineau reimagines Sisyphus as telling his own tale through notebooks he kept while enduring his notorious punishment, which include surprising revelations about the self-sacrifice he made for his fellow Corinthians, his bold fight against the injustice of the gods, and the unbounded love for his wife and sons that earned him a second chance at life.

The Lost Notebooks of Sisyphus is a timeless allegory that helps us come to terms with own daily struggles and shines new light on Camus' existential conclusion that, "We must imagine Sisyphus as happy."

"A glorious saga. A tale for the ages told with uncommon depth, poetry and grace. To understand the myth of Sisyphus is to know that the long-haul matters and that there is a kind of nobility in our suffering and a deeper meaning in our perseverance. We need this book to correct the shallow misconceptions about Sisyphus and initiate us into in the mysteries of this archetypal story."


Phil Cousineau is the author of The Lost Notebooks of Sisyphus an award-winning writer and filmmaker, teacher and editor, lecturer, storyteller, and TV host. With more than 35 books translated into more than ten languages and 15 scriptwriting credits to his name, Cousineau has also appeared alongside mentors Joseph Campbell and Huston Smith. Host and co-writer of Global Spirit on PBS-TV, he has also appeared on CNN, the Discovery Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, and has been interviewed for stories in TimeNewsweek, and The New York Times. Cousineau lives with his family in North Beach in San Francisco, California, and leads one or two small group travel programs or writing retreats each year.

Admission Info

Free admission

Phone: 415-927-0960

Email: nmitchell@bookpassage.com

Additional time info:

4:00 - 5:30 pm

Dates & Times

2022/06/04 - 2022/06/04

Location Info

Book Passage, Corte Madera

51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925

Parking Info

Parking lot