The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 5th

Q&A with author Alex McKeithen

Alex McKeithen will read from his memoir, “The Seventh Angel,” today at Bull’s Head Bookshop.

During his time at Davidson College, McKeithen went to Tuscany to study painting for his studio art major. He suffered a psychotic break that caused him to think he was the seventh angel sent to warn people of the coming apocalypse. He streaked through Paris until he was arrested at the Arc de Triomphe. Upon returning to the U.S., he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Bull’s Head Bookshop

Assistant Arts Editor Josephine Yurcaba spoke with McKeithen about his experiences abroad before and after the break, and why he decided to put them down on paper.

Daily Tar Heel: What was being abroad like and how were you doing before you went to Paris?

Alex McKeithen: I was in Tuscany, and I was staying in a hillside town that was very beautiful. The Tuscan sun really raised my spirit.

I skipped the two other classes in art history that I had and just painted and got higher and higher.

DTH: What happened or made things different when you got you Paris?

AM: When I tripped to Paris I was pretty high on life. The family I got didn’t have any parents there.

So I didn’t have anyone looking out for me if I was having trouble. I was just going to museums and taking in how pretty Paris was, and I was drawing all the time. I wasn’t grounded at all.

That’s pretty much what triggered the break. I can remember everything. I was surprised when writing the book that I can remember all the churches I passed. It’s kind of like frozen in my memory because it was such an odd thing to go through.

When I was in Fortuna, I thought something was special about me. I thought I was special somehow, and I was doing these paintings and was totally inspired by God.

I grew up in the church and was a Christian, and a couple times I closed my eyes and said a prayer while in Fortuna asking, “What’s going on? Give me a sign.”

When I opened my eyes there was a dove flying right in front of me.

In Paris, the night before I had the break, I read the entire book of Revelation.

When you slip out of bounds you start making your own games and reasons for things and you’re euphoric and you think you’re special.

The reason I took my clothes off was because I thought I was the seventh angel and the apocalypse was coming that day and we didn’t need clothes anymore and it was a return to the Garden of Eden.

I was like the seventh angel or the second Adam.

DTH: Why did you write the book and what do you hope people get from it and from your visit to Bull’s Head?

AM: I really wanted to write it because I really dislike the way that people represent bipolar in movies and books, like Bradley Cooper wearing a trash bag.

I wanted to write it just 100 percent the way it is. People don’t go running down the street with a trash bag on.

I want people to see what the experience was like and maybe go through the experience with me.

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