His gift for finding the "words to say it" has become one of the hallmarks of Adam Phillips's writing. Described as a "philosopher of happiness" and a therapist who "writes as well as he doctors" Phillips has done much to bring psychoanalysis into contact with the broad spectrum of cultural life (the "larger world of words", of literature and story, as he puts it at the beginning of On Flirtation
in 1994). Following his exploration of the child as a figure of life and passion in The Beast in the Nursery
(1998), in Darwin's Worms
Phillips travels to the opposite end of the line: suffering, loss, mortality are the key themes in this reading of Darwin's lifelong passion for the earthworm and Freud's equally longstanding distaste for the idea of biography (the pretence at a coherent and narratable life). Weaving a complex and persuasive tale around his two apparently disparate subjects, Phillips finds Darwin and Freud united in their sceptically secular attitude towards the "higher things" of this world. He suggests that both men "recycle what their cultures try to disown": the creative achievement of the lowly worm, the grief which both keeps people going and drives them to death. That paradox in turn drives this book: its sometimes unexpected interpretation of the constraints and transience of human life as a pull towards the future--and a different way of thinking about death. --Vicky Lebeau
About the Author
Adam Phillips was formerly Principal Child Psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital in London. He is the author of, among others, Darwin's Worms, Promises, Promises, Equals and Houdini's Box.