Impressively well-researched, powerfully written, and definitively damning.

FREUD

THE MAKING OF AN ILLUSION

A thorough debunking of the Freud legend by an accomplished author and academic.

In this elegant and relentless exposé, New York Review of Books contributor Crews (Emeritus, English/Univ. of California; Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays, 2006, etc.) wields his razor-sharp scalpel on Freud’s slavish followers, in particular, who did not want to see or who willfully redacted the sloppiness of Freud’s research methods in order to “idealize him.” The author sees a blackout of sorts by what he calls the Freudolatry, or the coterie of Freud apologists, from Anna Freud to many scholars down the line, who have limited access to his letters or correspondence between young Freud and his then-fiancee, Martha Bernays, between 1882 and 1886. This was the crucial period in the formation of his “seduction theory” and establishment as a specialist of nervous concerns among patients (largely well-off Jewish women) in Vienna. Having studied briefly with Jean-Martin Charcot of the Salpêtrière in Paris, Freud styled himself as an expert in hypnosis, Charcot’s specialty in the treatment of hysteria, a catchall term for women’s nervous disorders. In his Vienna practice, Freud’s advocacy of the use of cocaine and other drugs as a panacea would bring him notoriety and even disgrace—e.g., using cocaine to “cure” his friend Ernst Fleischl von Marxow of morphine addiction. Eventually, Freud became dependent on cocaine and self-administered it throughout these years of feverish writing and developing his early psychoanalytic theories. Crews carefully digs through Freud’s free-wheeling handling of facts, especially regarding the idea of “repressed memory of a sexual trauma”—e.g., the case of Bertha Pappenheim, aka Anna O. The author also reveals how many other theorists before Freud were exploring the role of the unconscious in psychoneuroses, which contradicts his self-depiction as a pioneer in the field, as well as how his editors tweaked the record. Crews comes to bury Freud, not to praise him, and he does so convincingly.

Impressively well-researched, powerfully written, and definitively damning.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-717-7

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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