ON THE COUCH by Erica Kates


Great American Stories About Therapy
edited by
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 An anthology of nicely ironic stories about therapy and analysis. Kates makes the point that therapy is peculiarly American, but she might also note that undergoing therapy is a peculiarity of the uppermiddle class, since the stories she has chosen to reprint- -either from magazine or previous book collections--are largely about well-educated people with the money to pay for treatment. Often, it's the chance to sample the sensibility of those who must work for a living that is at the heart of the therapeutic process. In Daniel Menaker's gentle satires of the cultured elite of New York City, ``I'm Rubber, You're Glue'' and ``Influenza,'' it's the blue-collar practicality of a Cuban analyst that spurs his ironic, detached patients to face up to their true motivations. In Peter Collier's moving ``Transference,'' a California man comes to terms with his father's death by turning his stern, practical, tough-talking analyst into a surrogate father. In Rebecca Lee's lyrical ``Slatland,'' the story a psychiatrist tells a little girl becomes her entire worldview, for good and ill. So much for the competent therapists. The incompetent ones are on display in Lorrie Moore's slight but hilarious ``If Only Bert Were Here,'' about a woman who refuses to get over the death of her cat, and about the therapist willing, for a fee, to listen to her; and in Stephen McCauley's dry ``The Whole Truth,'' which is about a woman who turns everything into a half-lie and the therapists who never figure her out. The masterpiece, though, is Lynne Sharon Schwartz's ``The Age of Analysis'' (from Acquainted with the Night, 1984), about a little monster raised by analyst parents, always in therapy himself, who learns to get his way through violent outbursts, dominating both his parents and his several psychiatrists. Schwartz sardonically examines therapy as a way of life, and eviscerates it. A superb gathering of intelligent, often moving, tales.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1997
ISBN: 0-87113-662-7
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996