FRITZ by Martin Shepard


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Considering the fact that the worshipful author admits recovering an overcoat loaned to Fritz Perls after the Gestalt therapist's death in order to fulfill his dream of wearing the master's ""mantle,"" this is a surprisingly thorough, objective and valuable assessment of the controversial guru. Though Shepard draws from the autobiographical In and Out of the Garbage Pail and Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, most of his material was obtained in interviews with the people closest to Perls, including his wife and children; several paramour-patients; friends Dwight Macdonald, Julian Beck and Judith Malina, Alan Watts; Michael Murphy and others of Esalen fame; and the disciples from Cowichan, his Canadian Gestalt ""kibbutz,"" and elsewhere (mainly California). They agree on many things: Fritz was an eyesore, a pig, a lecher, a boor and a grandstander. Perhaps more to the point: he was an uncanny observer of human behavior and an enormously gifted and effective therapist. Although the American credentials he listed after his name were bogus, his European background included analysis with both Horney and Reich and an association with the Bauhaus. Shepard's rundown on Fritz's childhood and adolescence makes it entirely clear why he was fixated on the pleasure principle, on polymorphous perversity and infantile self-gratification. Furthermore, poor Fritz was snubbed by Freud at a conference -- and his heresy grew proportionately. He tried anything and everything, ultimately incorporating elements of Body Awareness, Psychodrama, Dianetics, Zen (he passed his koan with flying colors at a Japanese monastery), LSD and sexual therapy into the holist seminars he gave during his five years at Esalen, which he referred to as ""a spiritual Coney Island."" No doubt, Fritz was one in a million or more, a unique innovator, great in his way. . .but by now that overcoat which Shepard and others have tried to don must be very threadbare.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1975
ISBN: 0000057541
Publisher: Saturday Review/Dutton