GREAT ABNORMALS by Vernon W. Grant


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A man's race is unimportant, said Mark Twain, because each man is a human being, and nothing could be worse than that. And for illustrations one need only go to the extraordinary man, as the psychologist Vernon Grant does in his penetrating studies of Kafka, Van Gogh, Poe, and Strindberg, each of whom experienced ""some degree of emotional crippling in almost every effort of living outside the special terrain of his giftedness."" Despite the corny and seemingly patronizing title, Great Abnormals is far from the usual finger-pointing case history; Grant is clearly fascinated by both his quartet's disabling psychic structures and the imaginative projections of them in works of art. His deciphering of these works in terms of complexes, frustrations, never becomes excessively clinical: and constitutional components, artistic creation is given its due and many sharp comments on the process and nature of art are made. But basically Grant views our unhappy geniuses from the perspective of the couch: Kalkan guilt and Oedipal anxiety, Van Gogh's ""nuclear self-centeredness,"" Strindberg's ""trauma of childhood,"" Poe's unassuaged ""dependent needs."" That he is also able to infuse drama and spirited biographical observations into these dreary labels makes his book valuable and instructive.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1967
Publisher: Hawthorn