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Scheibe (Psychology/Wesleyan Univ.) rehearses the well-worn thesis that "psychology must view life as drama."

In a series of essays related by theme than a single unfolding argument, Scheibe begins with the assertion that our lives are

dramas, that "we all live in boxes" that are "little theaters wherein the play is earnest and the players all convinced of their grasp

on reality." Dilating upon Shakespeare's noted dictum "All the world's a stage"—a portion of which he misquotes—he discusses

such subjects as seriousness, indifference, boredom, cosmetics and costumes, eating and sex, gambling, and piety. His observations

range from the profound to the pedantic to the patent to the banal. Among the first are his distinctions between common piety

and what he calls "authentic piety"; among the last are such stale declarations as "Gambling is a means of achieving drama in

one's life," "Television has shortened our attention span," and "Bowel movements remind us of our finitude." The chapters vary

in their demands. Some border on the colloquial (one contains comments about the social effects of farting); others introduce

statistics and graphs; still others deploy jargon ("eutrophy," "veridicality"); and one is little more than an expanded description

of a course Scheibe teaches. Writing at times with clarity and even elegance (he describes our "attempts to escape the tentacles

of tedium"), Scheibe displays his eclectic interests in allusions ranging from Wordsworth to Freud to Fats Waller. At other times,

however, he fashions similes that confound rather than clarify (he describes the sounds of slot machines as "rather like the

Carnatic music of South India") and commits solecisms ("refer back"). Hurried readers who wish to grasp his thesis and its

implications in brief can consult his "Reprise"—three lucid and even lyrical summary pages at the end.

A promising drama in need of a stronger script. (5 line illus., 1 table)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-674-00231-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000