THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS: Freudian Tales of Women and Their Men by Janet Sayers

THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS: Freudian Tales of Women and Their Men

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fifteen all-too-brief case studies that show how abusive or emotionally neglectful father figures can permanently scar their children's lives. British psychotherapist and feminist Sayers (Mothers of Psychoanalysis, 1991) claims convincingly that ""we are all at risk of succumbing to imagined images of men--as patriarch or phallus, monster or idol--sustained by the harmful childhood fixations, acted-out rebellion and inward defenses my tales describe."" The people she analyzes range from a compulsively and joylessly sexual Don Juan to a psychologically self-emasculating ""wimp,"" from a woman who so rigorously denies any male presence in her life that she is convinced her child is the result of a virgin birth to several women who repeatedly become involved with abusive men as a paradoxical way of trying to overcome disenchantment with the male sex. Sayers frames her tales with brief, usually illuminating Freudian analyses; she views her book as a corrective to the excessive emphasis laid on the child's relation with the mother by most British neo-Freudians (e.g., Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, and Wilfred Bion). Yet she overstates her case, ignoring in particular the influences of class--surprisingly so, given the dreary near-uniformity of her subjects, almost all of whom are socially isolated, lower-middle-class English men and women with limited education and little psychological self-awareness. Perhaps for these reasons, Sayers's attempts at helping them improve distorted, unhappy lives usually seem brief and ineffectual. And because her subjects' pain is not always reducible to Freudian and feminist terms, the book's subtitle seems contrived and the author's approach of less value than one that would take socioeconomic factors into account. Fascinating stories, but told with a reductionist analysis.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Basic