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On Balance Paperback – 7 Jul 2011

2.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241143896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241143896
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 493,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A refreshing, invigorating experience...Adam Phillips is one of the richest and most rewarding essayists of our time." --"Los Angeles Times""Highly pragmatic...Phillips's authority as a writer comes in no small part from his own experience as a highly regarded therapist....Like a priest, he is concerned with damnation and salvation, under the secular names of sickness and cure." --Adam Kirsch, "The Boston Globe""Transformative...Phillips can tease out contradictions with extraordinary delicacy....He shows that pleasure and desire are not simple; they can be feared...and used to hide things we should really see." --"The Guardian (London)""Gently provocative reading on themes of need and desire...Phillips's ideas are fresh and inventive, casting new light on counterintuitive topics from the psychological importance of punishment to the questionable pursuit of happiness." --"Financial Times""A set of beguiling essays...the author provides polished ponderables for all readers." --"Kirkus Reviews "

About the Author

Adam Phillips was born in Cardiff in 1954. He is the author of numerous works of psychotherapy and literary criticism, including Winnicott, On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored, Going Sane, Side Effects, On Kindness, co-written with Barbara Taylor, On Balance, Missing Out, One Way and Another and Becoming Freud.

Phillips is a practising psychoanalyst and a visiting professor in the English department at the University of York. He writes regularly for the London Review of Books, the Observer and the New York Times, and he is General Editor of the Penguin Modern Classics Freud translations. His new book, Unforbidden Pleasures, comes out in November 2015 and is published by Hamish Hamilton.


Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Someone suggested to me recently, whilst discussing my own frustration with the author's writing style and his less than accessible - nae impenetrable - prose, that the constant interjection of contemplative and supplementary explanatory thoughts by way of dashes - whether literary nougats or jarring asides of self-relection in almost every other sentence* - amount to not much more than masturbatory delight in the pleasing of himself with his "witty wordplay".

Like a Clapton guitar solo or a Neil Peart drum routine, why use 5 notes when 150 will do?

It was also drawn to my attention that the author is more thought of and admired by the high-brow literari than his psychoanalytic professional peers.

But who am I to judge?

I recognise that I am just not clever enough to take in the author's work in this instance and perhaps therefore I feel bereft and excluded from topics that a far better writer would be able to articulate more effectively with grace, wit, warmth and layman-friendly clarity.

* Before I get shot in response - see what I did there, intentionally, with irony.
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Format: Paperback
The author constantly and unnecessarily interrupts his sentences making it hard for the reader to follow along. The prose is excessively fluffy, burying the ideas. Cute wordplay is also not unseen. This makes the book pointlessly hard to read. Which is a shame because the ideas in them are actually interesting and relevant, even practical.

I also threw the book across the room but don't be fooled: I threw it out of frustration of the way it was written not because of the ideas in it.

If you want to read this book bring lots of patience. Else you're better of finding another author on the subject.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"This book divides opinion" is about the only certain thing one may claim about this tome, indeed most of Phillips' books, with the possible exception of 'On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored', his debut. Agreed, he can be seen as verbose, dilettantish, needlessly obscure; what Judt said (with justice) about the French obscurantist Althusser, has been said of our man: his books are 'Higher Drivel'. With the exception of one reviewer who takes refuge in a rather unbecoming sarcasm, I sympathize: Phillips is not always easy and the style and matter are sometimes obscure, not always necessarily so I think. Still I find him invariably worth the effort and this book's meditation - and it IS meditative - means he needs to avoid linear thinking at times as it is a fruitless endeavour to make clear what is intractable, recondite, tricky. He deals with many and various topics in this selection of essays, including a thicket of a tilt at fundamentalism; all essays treat of an interesting topic (apply the concept of balance to, say, news, and you see that you must end at "a view from nowhere" as Thomas Nagel said of another thing). This is a valuable exercise and Phillips anatomises is neatly. Besides, anyone who reads someone wrestling with the Unconscious in a prose of Cartesian clarity has surely missed the point. If though, you are like my old HOD Jen Thomas you will merely ask "what is the point..?" To which the fitting rejoinder has to be a variety of Hutton's famous "If you have to ask the price, then you cannot afford it..." In this case, make time for Phillips is an admirable slogan in a society where much that is patently shallow is judged, preposterously, deep(ish).Read more ›
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