An adept introduction to an innovative thinker whose dramatic flair and sometimes-messianic personality tended to overshadow...

IMPROMPTU MAN

J.L. MORENO AND THE ORIGINS OF PSYCHODRAMA, ENCOUNTER CULTURE, AND THE SOCIAL NETWORK

The son of the psychiatrist who founded psychodrama examines the life of his “famous, eccentric, and controversial” father and traces the evolution and impact of his ideas.

For clarity, Moreno (Philosophy and Medical Ethics/Univ. of Pennsylvania; The Body Politic: The Battle Over Science in America, 2011, etc.) refers to his subject as J.L. throughout the book. Born in Bucharest in 1889, J.L. rejected Freudian theory while still a medical student. Early in his career, he developed a form of psychotherapy he called psychodrama, in which the stage becomes a therapeutic platform. From the 1940s to the 1970s, public psychodrama sessions were a feature of Manhattan’s Moreno Institute. Recognized as one of the leading social scientists in the United States, J.L. believed that spontaneity and creativity are driving forces in human nature and that love and mutual sharing are powerful principles. In J.L.’s view, improvisation and spontaneity come together in psychodrama, providing a way for members to help each other. Moreno shows the influence of his father’s ideas in the “happenings” of the 1960s and the group-dynamic experiments of the human potential movement. That J.L.’s ideas percolated through popular culture, though in watered-down form, is aptly demonstrated in the author’s discussion of the hit movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), in which the characters experience an Esalen-like encounter, and of Clint Eastwood’s 2012 empty-chair role-playing performance at the Republican convention, a technique rooted in improvisational theater that J.L. used in Vienna a century earlier. J.L.’s insights into group relationships—he created the science of sociometry—predates by decades the success of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The attention-loving J.L. understood the human impulse for self-expression and the desire to belong to a group.

An adept introduction to an innovative thinker whose dramatic flair and sometimes-messianic personality tended to overshadow his accomplishments.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-934137-84-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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