“Fraud is Man,” declares Freud in this brilliant, learned, ambitious, and wildly thought-provoking masterpiece of fictional...

FREUD'S MEGALOMANIA

What if Freud had left a final paper declaring, revolutionarily, that morality arises not from the guilt caused by Oedipal desires but, instead, from simple fear of the absolute, unchallengeable authority demonstrated in megalomania? CUNY history professor Rosenfield makes just this the premise of his novel debut—and produces a wonderful, chewy, intellectual delight.

Rosenfield mixes real with fictional characters, giving Freud a mistress (and also a daughter by her), with whom he leaves his last paper, Megalomania, before departing from Europe forever. The paper, unread and unauthenticated, manages to survive WWII and come finally into the hands of Freud’s granddaughter, who in turn brings it to the attention of cognitive scientist Professor Albert J. Stewart: and it’s Stewart who tells us about his own first and astonished reading of the paper, then presents it to us in toto with his own annotations, clarifications, and background comments. Stewart himself has just ended a five-year collaboration with one Norman Dicke, winner of the “Looker Prize,” creator of “Loop Theory,” and fabricator of a thinking—Marilyn Monroe robot. Framed by Stewart’s tales of the despotic and despicable Dicke, Freud’s paper becomes all the more riveting as it treats Freud’s real-life and also despotic colleague, Nobelist Julius Wagner-Juarreg, who gave shock treatment to soldiers during WWI, declaring them “malingerers” rather than traumatized victims. He was cleared, in 1920, of charges of unethical practice—though the testimony Freud himself gave in the trial left him haunted ever after, feeling that he had failed “to adequately defend . . . the young men who had been tortured.” And the cause of his failure? Simply the sheer force of Wagner as megalomaniac—a man so bold that he “had perfected the art of lying to a point where truth had become unrecognizable,” the sheer power of his fraud having become the truth.

“Fraud is Man,” declares Freud in this brilliant, learned, ambitious, and wildly thought-provoking masterpiece of fictional revisionism.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04898-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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