A clear and engaging—though sometimes tendentious—summary of some key moments in an intellectual life.

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BECOMING FREUD

THE MAKING OF A PSYCHOANALYST

A psychoanalyst and translator of Freud summarizes the connections between Freud’s life and his creation of psychoanalysis.

In this latest installment of Yale’s Jewish Lives series, Phillips (One Way and Another: Selected Essays, 2013, etc.) doesn’t offer a full biography of Freud but focuses on the “great five books” he wrote around the turn of the 20th century (among them, The Interpretation of Dreams and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life), the works that both established Freud as a significant intellectual presence in Western thought and also laid the foundation for psychoanalysis. But Phillips, not neglecting the facts of Freud’s life, sketches his family background, boyhood (he was a voracious reader), gifts as a student, decision to segue from medical practice to this thing that didn’t really yet have a name—the focus on hysteria (principally in women). We learn about his marriage, his children, his professional friendships that usually dissolved later on, his astonishing productivity, his disdain for biography (Phillips is fully aware of this particular irony), his flight from Nazi-dominated Europe and his death in London. The author also discusses how Freud, though not a practicing Jew, nonetheless had to live in a world that did not care: He was a Jew, period, and this had grave consequences for his professional life and, later, for his safety. (Some relatives who stayed behind died in the Holocaust.) Phillips tells the stories of the professors and physicians who influenced him and notes that Freud grappled with ideas most complex and even contradictory—“we are helplessly desiring creatures,” writes the author, with “an instinct for death.” Some readers accustomed to today’s breezier literary styles may wonder why Phillips favors so many page-length paragraphs.

A clear and engaging—though sometimes tendentious—summary of some key moments in an intellectual life.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-300-15866-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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