ADVENTURES IN THE ORGASMATRON

HOW THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION CAME TO AMERICA

Exhaustive biography of Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957), the renegade Freudian who championed the therapeutic powers of the orgasm and, for better or worse, helped transform America’s views on sexuality.

At the age of 22, Reich became a member of Freud’s inner circle, and was clearly the leader of the second generation of psychoanalysts. Yet his insistence that sexual repression was the key to all neuroses soon alienated him from Freud and his more orthodox followers. This alienation accelerated when Reich joined the Communist Party and laid out the theory that sexual repression was at the root of social disorder as well. None of this sat well with either Marxists or Freudians, and with the intentions of the Nazis clear, Reich left Europe for the United States in 1939. In America, Reich found a more receptive audience for his unorthodox views, especially among the artistic and political avant-garde of the early post–World War II years, who were alienated from Marxism but hardly aligned with the status quo. Of particular interest was Reich’s invention, the orgone energy accumulator, basically a wooden box lined with steel wool. The box gathered and concentrated a mysterious and sexually charged life force, orgone, and by sitting in the box one could improve his or her orgasm, general health, even be cured of cancer. Notables such as Norman Mailer championed Reich, and among his followers were William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Sean Connery. However, Reich’s behavior became increasingly erratic. Turner writes that he was clearly schizophrenic, seeing enemies everywhere including aliens from outer space. Imprisoned for violating an FDA injunction on building or using the orgone box, Reich died in 1957. Yet in death his influence grew, in ways he would have abhorred. He championed sexual liberation, not the promiscuous narcissism that flourished in the 1960s. As Reich had intimated and Marcuse and Foucault confirmed, sexual freedom can become a commodity and blunt radical impulses toward social change. Fair, accessible story of a strange man and strange times.

 

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-10094-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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