THE MALE EGO by Willard Gaylin

THE MALE EGO

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Like Sam Keen and Robert Bly, Gaylin (Adam and Eve and Pinocchio, 1990, etc.) recognizes a crisis for men, suggesting that ``two hundred years of modern civilization is undoing our evolution.'' Unlike those champions of revised masculinity, however, he rejects the quest for primitive man (``he is only too evident in our behavior''), as well as traditional measures of male success (trophy wives, the corner office), and argues instead for: more meaningful markers and rites of passage; rechanneling aggression into more adaptive patterns; and restoring feelings of pride by acknowledging the historical forces that have undermined them. Gaylin asserts that traditional images of manhood are no longer desirable, that the hunter/warrior mentality once needed for survival has lost its cultural usefulness. As a psychoanalyst committed to a belief in the modifiability of human behavior, he maintains that cooperative models of behavior make more sense in modern society and that we can use play to redirect boys' aggressive impulses along more productive paths. He also looks at attitudes toward work, sex, and manliness in attempting to understand the sources of injured egos and lost pride. Much of what he says has resonance: the symbolic value of guns and cars; the universality of courage as a male ideal; the causes of depression in men; the relationship of scientific triumphs to levels of anxiety. Other ideas--the meaning of sports to men--will be far more controversial. Unlike John Munder Ross (reviewed below), a similarly oriented psychoanalyst with similar concerns, Gaylin rarely refers to specific case histories, preferring literary characters for support--heroes from Stephen Crane, Norman Mailer, and James Dickey most prominently. His tempered commentary here has much of the same positive force as in his Rediscovering Love (1986).

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-670-83588-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992