MEN TALK by Alvin S. Baraff


How Men Really Feel About Women, Sex, Relationships, and Themselves
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 A therapy book with a different slant, and little else, written from inside a men's group by the therapist. ``No one understands men,'' says Baraff, setting the chatty tone. He then gives himself high marks for ``risking professional suicide,'' in the words of a colleague, by daring to set up a pioneer men's center (``MacCenter...devoted entirely to men's issues'') in a culture where over two-thirds of those in therapy are women. In fact, Baraff is in tune with a large and growing men's-movement market, as men en masse try to come to grips with whatever it is that ails them. A tip of the hat to Robert Bly, and Baraff is off. The 24 sessions that follow are organized around current topics such as fear of therapy, avoiding feelings, and the biological clock, and more classic ones like dreams, therapist-as- father, and the shadow-mother. Baraff and his reactions are omnipresent: ``I smile at Mitch and mentally debate whether to let Ed and Paul continue. I decide to come in.'' After the sessions come interpretations, which generally recap facts the reader knows and present obvious conclusions: ``Paul talks about the trauma of the sudden death of his father, and how the anger from this even still has not subsided. In fact this episode and its consequences play a role in his present life.'' The style verges on daytime TV: ``Ed, meanwhile, is finding it difficult to make a firm decision to marry Ellen.'' Baraff has no therapeutic axe to grind, which is not necessarily bad, but there are no fresh insights, or any sense of ambiguity in situations with enormous possibilities for interpretation. From this comes a pervading, claustrophobic therapist-as-God tone that does not aid his cause. Without power or spark, but nevertheless offering stretches of dialogue that offer a picture of male concerns and interaction in group therapy.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1991
ISBN: 0-525-93328-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991