R. D. LAING: The Man and His Ideas by Richard I. Evans

R. D. LAING: The Man and His Ideas

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The moment when a man has finally overcome his lifelong infatuation with ideas is not the moment to question him about his ideas; and that, alas, is the trouble with this vague and superficial book, tenth in a series ""based on dialogues with outstanding psychologists."" The man, here, is intriguing, both in interviewer/editor Evans' apologia-introduction--which seems determined to prove that Laing is neither schizophrenic nor uncooperative--and in Peter Mezan's closing, crackling journalistic piece, ""Portrait of a 20th-Century Skeptic,"" in which Laing discoursing on his own fame reveals great mischief. One wants more snapshots of the man in action, of his changeable face, his electric, gentle and odd behavior with others. His mind is more elusive. Laing's skepticism is rigorous, conscious and deliberate--as he declares himself determined ""to suspend judgment as practiced in the Greek schools,"" with a little help from the Oriental mind-arts. As a result, whether Evans asks him about schizophrenia, family life, double-binds, orthodox psychiatry, or politics--often subtly pressuring him towards the ""Laingian"" response--the recalcitrant R. D. often begins with a negation: ""I don't want to say. . . ."" He doesn't care to condemn the psychiatric establishment (or anything else) out of hand. He doesn't want to reify institutions or to forget that they are ultimately just people in relation. An extreme sensitivity to interpersonal situations, especially exploitations, comes through. And a quiet insistence on the dissolution of all preconceptions and labeling systems. Evans is confronted and stymied by this Buddhist Erving Goffman, with the occasional lightning-flash of a mind that needs a far more spacious, informal format to reveal itself. A man whose life is an experiment should be questioned about experiences, not theories.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1975
Publisher: Dutton