THE ABANDONERS: Portraits of Loss, Separation and Neglect by Thomas J. Cottle

THE ABANDONERS: Portraits of Loss, Separation and Neglect

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Cottle is one of those hypersensitive psychotherapists who prefers to think of the people he works with as friends rather than patients or subjects. Indeed he spends as much time scrutinizing his own compassionate involvement and middle-class guilt as he does endeavoring to assuage the many hurts and deprivations which have scarred their lives. Like his previous book Time's Children (1971) this one deals mostly with the young -- embittered ghetto kids, but also wholesome clean-cut Midwesterners. There's Bill Markowski, a Polish working-class guy who made it to college -- when he was a small boy his father blew his brains out with a shotgun. There's Monica, a hippie runaway from a rich suburb who spends her time weaving elaborate daydreams. And there's Matthew Washington, the angry inner-city black teenager ""who had death in his eyes."" Besides the usual burdens of poverty, racism or middle-class alienation, Cottle's patient-friends have all, each in his way, been victims of parental death or desertion -- some unassimilated departure. Presumably they carry the loss with them extending it in their fantasies and their vexed home and school lives. Unfortunately, for all Cottle's empathy and humility he doesn't seem to have an analytic grip on what it means to abandon or be abandoned -- perhaps because he chooses to aestheticize their experiences, seeing them in his mind's eye cinematically as an ongoing film sequence. Cottle is, no doubt about it, a keen observer and a kind man and many of his people are sensitively evoked. But to what purpose?

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1972
Publisher: Little, Brown