Email this review


Loosely linked episodes from a year in the life of an insecure, fledgling psychoanalyst--an uncertain but mostly likable mix of near-farce, semi-satire, and sentimental comedy. Dr. Roger Liebman is 32, near the end of training (including his own analysis) at the Manhattan Institute, and less than happy with his crammed schedule of non-paying, rarely-improving clinic patients. He's lonely and sex-starved: incognito, he answers a possibly suggestive ad in the Village Voice and arranges a rendezvous with ""Single Jewish Female""--who turns out to be one of his patients, embittered Miss Hirsch (a not-very-believable recycling of The Shop Around the Corner). He's got a slightly cartoony Jewish family in New Jersey: very reluctantly, he makes a doomed stab at rescuing flaked-out cousin Barry from a grotesquely possessive, awesomely complacent mother (""I know that Sigmund Freud himself, I've read a little too, admitted that mothers are important. Am I right?""). He's plagued by the pressure to write scholarly papers but has his one long-brewing idea stolen by an oily, climbing pseudo-chum. And, after an emotional but undemonstrative very last session with his anti-sentimental analyst, Roger's a full-fledged shrink at last: he spends a miserable week at the ""in"" Cape Cod beach for vacationing analysts; he begins his own at-home private practice;and, in the book's most farcical sequence, a burglar wanders into a Roger/patient session, and karate-chopping Roger repels him--which leads both to patient problems and to a happy romance with ""amazingly unconflicted"" Peggy. Of less general amusement, however, are Roger's forays into psychoanalytic-institute politics: warding off feminist attacks on sexism, heading off a palace revolt against the free-association method, mediating power struggles, debating the current state of psychoanalysis. And the glimpses of Roger's patients--a homosexual ashamed to find himself going straight, a philanderer with a severe ""madonna-prostitute split""--are too superficial to take seriously, too humdrum to generate real comedy. Still, if Buttenwieser has found neither a strong narrative frame nor a consistent tone for these vignettes, they're agreeably unpretentious and engagingly detailed: low-key merriment, with special interest for those eager to see some of the old-fashioned psychoanalyst stereotypes thoroughly deflated.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1980
Publisher: Little, Brown