To An Insane Degree is a poetic memoir spanning the life of artist, Sandy Diamond. Sandy's memoir takes us from her childhood— where she worked in her father's delicatessen side-by-side with Holocaust survivors — to art school in New York, rubbing shoulders with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Her story offers a glimpse into the madness she faced while battling manic depression in mental institutions, and the courage it took to rebuild her life after an accident that broke her back led to a crippling deformity. Sandy's journey carries us through a series of love affairs with men who helped her through her recovery from both shock treatment and six months in a body cast, the sixties, when she moved to California to become “the first single deliberate mother in the universe,” into her final days as the artist she had always prayed to become. This surprisingly hilarious testament to art and passion is a celebration of Sandy's extraordinary life and shows us what's possible when we transcend the limitations of the body, buck societal conventions, and befriend the demons of madness.
This offers a rare glimpse into the life of a visionary female artist's life from the New York jazz, Beatnik streets of the 1950's to California in the 1960's through the trials and joys of raising a son as a disabled single mother in the 1970's and 80's.
Born in 1936 to Elizabeth and Samuel Diamond in Gates Mills, Ohio, Sandy was passionate about words and images from infancy. Her mother told her she was “scribbling on her crib sheet as soon as she was strong enough to hold anything that made a mark.”
In New York Sandy ran with Jack Kerouac («He sainted me by kissing my braid”), Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and the swashbuckling poet Peter Orlovksy. Sandy writes that Orlovsky was her lover as well as Ginsberg's; and, when she asked Orlovsky if he loved girls or boys, he replied, «I'm crazy for the girls, but I love Allen!”
New York offered Sandy the intoxication of living and breathing her art, but she also suffered severe manic-depressive episodes. A breakdown at 22 precipitated three trips to mental institutions. Born with curvature of the spine («my mother always told me to sit up straight!”), the scoliosis was exacerbated by a fall from a roof. One afternoon, descending onto two stacked garbage cans after rooftop sunbathing (in a red-and-white laced bikini, she was quick to point out), one can tipped and Sandy toppled. After months in a body cast, her broken back healed, but her spine continued to curve.
Sandy reared her son Gabriel in Berkeley and Oakland, encouraging his own artistic passions of dance, theater and filmmaking.