A kooky and witty illustrated tale that’s full of intelligence and educational value.

MOTHER MAY I?

A POST-FLOYDIAN FOLLY

In Boxer’s (In the Floyd Archives, 2001) satirical graphic-novel sequel, a group of animals searches for a new psychoanalyst after Freudian Dr. Floyd abandons them.

Bunnyman, Mr. Wolfman, Rat Ma’am, and Lambskin are all former patients of Dr. Floyd. Sadly, the bird psychoanalyst has flown away and left the four in the woods, their therapy incomplete. Rat Ma’am suggests performing a sacrifice or burning an effigy of Dr. Floyd, which eventually becomes a much tamer “weenie roast.” For more structure, the group may simply need, as Rat Ma’am puts it, “a really watchful psychoanalyst.” Bunnyman, who has an Oedipal complex, nominates Lambskin, his surrogate mother, whose wool he often gingerly strokes. Kids’ games, such as the titular “Mother May I?” become the animals’ new form of therapy. But when that’s not enough, Lambskin produces a little black sheep from her pocket: Melanin Klein. Melanin treats Bunnyman, Mr. Wolfman, and Rat Ma’am as her children—and treats her kids as patients, including kids from her own pocket: Melittle Little, Little Hans, and Squiggle Piggle. Her brand of psychoanalysis is decidedly different than Dr. Floyd’s; for instance, she believes that everyone, even her children, is “strangely attracted” to her. But, with luck, Melanin will still be able to help the neurotic animals. Boxer’s previous book spoofed Sigmund Freud, but this follow-up concentrates primarily on psychoanalysts Melanie Klein and D.W. Winnicott. The delightful story is generally surreal, with objects appearing out of nowhere (such as a toy train) and Bunnyman having apparent hallucinations involving Dr. Floyd. Nevertheless, the comedy is abundant and perhaps best appreciated after perusing the author’s historical notes at the end. For example, Melanin asks the animals to create squiggles out of Squiggle Piggle’s pliable tail, which, Boxer explains, is based on a therapeutic drawing game that Winnicott created for kids. As in her preceding book, Boxer offers clear, simple artwork that suitably resembles children’s drawings, and it includes moments of praiseworthy visual humor, such as Rat Ma’am pointing to her own thought balloon: “Those are my little black thoughts.”

A kooky and witty illustrated tale that’s full of intelligence and educational value.

Pub Date: May 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949093-17-9

Page Count: 188

Publisher: International Psychoanalytic Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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