IRON JOHN: A Book About Men by Robert Bly

IRON JOHN: A Book About Men

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Strong words about strong and weak men from poet and critic Bly (American Poetry, p. 845, etc.). Using as his metaphorical text the Grimm fairy tale ""Iron John,"" Bly offers ""an initiatory path in eight stages"" to allow men to recapture a sense of healthy, responsible masculinity. He advocates a male role-model midway between he-man and nerd--a man ""in touch with the Wild Man"" within. In so doing, Bly condemns the ""soft male"" so sought after--he says--by many feminists of the 60's and 70's, arguing instead for a return to the ""deep masculine."" He lauds the ""joyful hunting"" of young boys, suggests that a loving clout from father to son can be a useful thing, and recommends the psychic process of Katabasis, or descent, as a complement to the desire for ascent and purity. Such thoughts harken back to traditional ideas of father-son relations, and Bly bolsters bis views with references to various ancient mythologies--Celtic, Greek, and older. He also leans heavily on psycho-jargon (""bringing the inner king back to life,"" etc.) and seems to have little sensitivity to orthodox religious views of the family. Fortunately, his sometimes pop-eyed beliefs rest on a firm foundation of personal experience, both his own (""I count myself among the sons Who have endured years of deprivation. . ."") and that of the many men who have attended his workshops on ""initiation"" into the ""male spirit."" Tough-minded and bracing, but too workshoppy.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1990
ISBN: 0306813769
Publisher: Addison-Wesley