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An uneven (but occasionally revealing) analysis of WASP postures and neuroses, from veteran psychiatrist Robertiello (A Psychoanalyst's Quest, 1985) and newcomer Hoguet. The argument: behind the self-assured Ralph-Lauren-perfect WASP facade lies a tangle of double-edged values, many of which have ugly and destructive consequences. WASPs suffer from a high incidence of alcoholism; a fear of success; a terror of humiliation; a tendency to deny both inner and external problems. . .and perhaps most damning of all, a lack of Self. The WASP ethic prohibits emotionalism, ambition, or overt sexuality. But, despite all this, the WASP image dazzles and lures many less cozily enshrined ethnic groups, and even imperfectly WASPy WASPS. Here, the several case studies provide the best reading: the consumer advocate who fights corruption but rarely initiates sex with his wife; the paint-company executive who keeps his carpentry shop perfectly neat and whom no one has ever seen laugh. Many of these portraits (are they composites? real people?) are sensible cautionary tales about the psychic costs of lack of communication. But the chapters on how WASPism awes outsiders are skin-shallow at best; and the discussions of WASP hang-ups, though occasionally illuminating, are often unsubstantiated and unexplained (as in this free-floating proclamation: ""For the WASP, it's easier to give than receive""). Shards of insight lodged in a landslide of generalization.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1987
Publisher: Donald Fine