HOW TO LIVE. WHAT TO DO

IN SEARCH OF OURSELVES IN LIFE AND LITERATURE

An engrossing consideration of how reading fiction can lay a pathway for emotional and intellectual enrichment.

A British psychoanalyst explores key stages of life through the illuminating stories of several relatable literary characters.

In his absorbing new book, Cohen, a professor of modern literary theory at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a practicing psychoanalyst, believes there’s a good deal of wisdom to be gleaned about our personal circumstances by reading fiction. He sets out to explore novels that are applicable to various life stages: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age and death. In each chapter, the author examines at least three significant novels, discussing relevant themes and narratives alongside his actual therapeutic cases, and occasionally reflecting on his own personal experiences. Cohen offers up a rich selection, combining several classic examples such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Mrs. Dalloway with lesser-known titles such as William Maxwell’s They Came Like Swallows or Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man as well as more recent works such as Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends. Cohen’s analysis is uniformly insightful and well complemented by his case studies, but some readers may balk that his selections, with a few exceptions, represent primarily White American or British authors, their stories confined almost exclusively to a straight cultural perspective. A broader inclusion of racial and ethnic fictional examples would have enhanced this exercise, but Cohen still provides a compelling case for how and why reading fiction can enlighten our human experiences. “In fiction as in the consulting room,” he writes, “different life stories abound with mutual echoes and resonances, bringing out not only what our lives have in common, but what sets them apart. And this is where fiction and psychotherapy come into their own. We may recognize aspects of ourselves in a fictional character or psychotherapeutic case study; but we will also be struck by the singularity of each of them, their tenacious attachment to being themselves and no one else.”

An engrossing consideration of how reading fiction can lay a pathway for emotional and intellectual enrichment.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31620-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

MAGIC WORDS

WHAT TO SAY TO GET YOUR WAY

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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