Q: What does one immediately suspect about a Jewish psychotherapist who, having spurned the ""conventional wisdom of the...


THE PICKPOCKET AND THE SAINT: Free Play of Imagination

Q: What does one immediately suspect about a Jewish psychotherapist who, having spurned the ""conventional wisdom of the collective imagination"" and pinned all his hopes on individual creativity, wants to nourish that creativity on Taoist tales, Sufi fables, the Arabian Nights, the Dream of the Red Chamber, on almost any classical Eastern text, so long as it's non-Judaic? A: That at age 53 (or thereabouts) he's still waging an adolescent war against his parents and culture. Actually there's no need to suspect anything, since Kopp himself once again (as he did in Mirror, Mask, and Shadow) drags in his Kafkaesque father and Portnoyesque mother to show the kind of dreadful odds his youthful project of imaginative liberation was up against. (Kopp later married a Presbyterian and offered his sons a rationally prepared smorgasbord of religions and mythologies to choose from.) The salient flaw, then, of his scheme for becoming ""a practical visionary who willingly forsakes traditional categories of good and bad, true and false, dream and reality"" is that it naively downplays the communal structures of human nature while romantically glorifying the Promethean hero. On the other hand, Kopp has a good analytic eye (he makes a number of adroit remarks on the ways uncontrolled hope and fear distort our experience); he writes with gusto; and he balances his egocentricity with a sometimes disarming vulnerability. After recounting his drawn-out struggle with a benign but agonizing brain tumor, he convincingly observes that ""Only a sense of how temporary, ordinary, and ultimately unimportant we all are will spare us the pain with which we complicate the inescapable simple suffering that comes with the territory."" Kopp doesn't press this Zen-like therapeutic notion far enough (it might undermine much of his hook), but such passages at least prove that he shouldn't be dismissed as just another voluble, ego-massaging shrink. Feeble as a grand Weltanschauung, but not bad as pop psychology.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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