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THE CALL OF SOLITUDE

ALONETIME IN A WORLD OF ATTACHMENT

A wide-ranging study of solitude, presenting it as a basic human need, one as necessary to psychic health and creativity as the social interactions emphasized by psychology's many ``attachment'' theorists. Buchholz, who directs New York University's Master's Program in the Psychology of Parenthood, wants to ``unshackle aloneness from its negative position as kith and kin to loneliness. Remove it from battles with bonding, attachment, and relationships. Make its message part of the social norm! Then uplift it from its lonely place on the mental health shelf.'' She succeeds admirably by examining the role of ``alonetime'' (a neologism she feels is needed, given the negative connotations many social scientists assign to ``solitude'') in everything from anthropological studies of other cultures to embryology, from pediatric medicine and child psychology to existentialist philosophy. Included are some fascinating observations on individuals who manage to survive, and even to thrive, during periods of extreme solitude, from the experiences of autistic children to those of hostages who have endured long periods of being blindfolded and isolated. She laments many of her patients' inability to grow inwardly by fostering their self-reflective and imaginative lives. Buchholz stumbles on occasion in romanticizing solitude, as in her claim that the autistic child possesses ``an exquisite ability to self-regulate,'' an unsupported claim at best. And while she properly warns of contemporary Americans' growing addiction to E-mail, computer culture in general, and other forms of external stimuli, she carries it to a neo-Luddite extreme in claiming that ``we are paying the price for the current frenetic demands in today's culture through being unwittingly led by technology into stupors.'' And the book could have used tightening. Her study, however, is on balance immensely interesting and informative, and accessible to the nonprofessional. Buchholz demonstrates irrefutably that ``without solitude existing as a safe place, a place for long sojourns and self- discovery, we lose an important sense of being self-regulating individuals.''

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-81874-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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BRAVE ENOUGH

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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