A sprawling, unwieldy and uneven work.

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PUTNAM CAMP

SIGMUND FREUD, JAMES JACKSON PUTNAM, AND THE PURPOSE OF AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGY

The great-grandson of James Jackson Putnam explores the relationship between his ancestor and Freud, as revealed in family archives, in published correspondence and other writings by the principals and in existing biographies and commentaries.

Debut author Prochnik begins with a rather imaginative description of the arrival of the Viennese psychoanalyst and his colleagues, Sandor Ferenczi and Carl Jung, at Putnam’s Adirondack retreat in September 1909. Clearly out of his element in this rustic setting, where an earnest athleticism prevailed, Freud, who had just delivered his famous series of lectures on psychoanalysis at Clark University, was nevertheless eager to spread his ideas to America, and Putnam, a prominent Boston psychologist who was disenchanted with the professional practice of psychology in America, was just the man to help him do it. After their brief time together at the retreat, Freud returned to Vienna, and Putnam to Boston, where he set up his clinic as a psychoanalytic laboratory, started a program of self-analysis and began writing and lecturing widely on Freud’s ideas. The two men met again in Europe in 1911, when Freud gave Putnam a brief, intense analysis and Putnam delivered a paper at the Weimar Congress. They corresponded regularly, until Putnam’s death in 1918. The time at Putnam Camp occupies a tiny part of this dense and overwritten account, but it is the most enjoyable, vivid portion. Prochnik tries to render Putnam, the upstanding New England blue blood, interesting by revealing his long relationship with a female ex-patient—was it or wasn’t it an affair?—but the intellectual debate between Freud and Putnam is heavy going. Putnam, who had faith in God and in the good will of humanity, argued (while Freud skillfully resisted) the idea that psychoanalysis should be linked with a philosophical system and with a particular set of ethical values. Prochnik argues that Putnam’s influence is still felt today, e.g., in the popularity of M. Scott Peck’s blend of theology and psychology. Somewhat outside Prochnik’s purported scope and covered extensively by other writers are Freud’s differences with his European colleagues in the psychoanalytic movement; nevertheless, they are discussed here at considerable length.

A sprawling, unwieldy and uneven work.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 1-59051-182-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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