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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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