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The Interpretation of Murder
The Interpretation of Murder
by Jed Rubenfeld
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A smart write, a good read, 29 July 2007
I read this book about a month ago while on holiday. I thought I would wait a little before reviewing it in order to see how it would play in my own play-back memory machine. And the answer is that it has played back well. A good plot with some smart twists, a cast of generally realistic and 'sympathetic' characters, well-researched places and times, and a very nicely interwoven piece of fiction with what was an important event in the history of psychoanalysis and its embracement in the US.

So why so many negative reviews? One reason is that the book does require considerable attention; it keeps the reader on his/her toes as every page seems to contain potential clues that may be vital for the plot. Secondly, the author follows the currently fashionable cinematic style of constant scene changes and breathless editing, in which several different subplots move at the same time and the reader has to disentangle them. This proves tiresome at times, as if the author cannot just settle down and tell a story - he has to tell several stories at once. This brings us to the third criticism - the book does move at times from being clever to being clever clever. I found the final denouement very entertaining and satisfying, though the reasons that bring it about seem to fall into the clever clever category. Finally - the hype. Of course, this raises people's expectations; it may have been good for the book sales, though may have undermined its lasting effect.

What then are the book's virtues? As someone familiar with the way psychoanalysis works and with the different existing accounts of its founder, Sigmund Freud, I found the descriptions of Freud's visit to America, accompanied by Jung and Ferenzci and met but Brill and Jones, all historical personages, well researched and very convincing. The portrait that the author paints of Freud is very compelling and several of his interchanges with other characters are very realistic and have an authentic feel. Far from being an irrelevance to the plot, the author uses the presence of the father of psychoanalysis as a vital machine that moves the story forward. How so? By using very skilfully the well-established technique of drawing side by side crime-solving with the solving of the mental enigma that is posed by people's actions, especially those that are violent, irrational and 'crazy'. Normal people are crazy, says psychoanalysis; and the detective can go a long way by understanding how a crazy person acts out his/her crazyness while maintaining a perfectly normal appearance.

I found that several Freudian 'interpretations' are very well described; they do make us see events and actions in a very different, very persuasive light; this is surely the sign of a good interpretation. Freud's exchanges with the different characters at a dinner party are highly effective in this regard. Jung's character, by contrast, is not as sympathetically portrayed and, I suspect, that some of the admirers of his theory of the collective unconscious and archetypes will view it as bordering the caricature. However, the rancour with which Jung came to regard psychoanalysis and its founder is borne out by his his writings and letters.

This book reads quickly, but does not read easily. It makes demands of its readers. But if the reader is willing to put the effort into reading it, the book repays this effort in trumps.

Verdi: Stiffelio
Verdi: Stiffelio

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An opera that should be much better known beautifully performed, 8 May 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Verdi: Stiffelio (Audio CD)
This is the opera that Verdi wrote immediately before his career exploded with the composition in a couple of years of Rigoletto, La Traviata and Trovatore. It is a truly remarkable one in more respects than one. The main event of the story, the adulterous affair of Stiffelio's wife, has already taken place before the curtain rises. The overture has a totally haunting tune for trumpet that sets up the tone for what emerges as real psychodrama. Stiffelio, a charismatic pastor, returns from his travels to discover that his wife has been unfaithful. She is torn by remorse. Her father, a retired soldier and a great Stiffelio fan takes justice into his own hands, killing lover. Stiffelio offers his wife a divorce (something that did not play well with audiences at the time of its premiere). The opera's conclusion is very powerful as forgiveness is contrasted to revenge.

This performance offers a chance to hear Carreras at his absolute prime; he was at his best in lyrical Verdi parts (such as those in Due Foscari and Simon Boccanegra) and here he sings like a god. Sylvia Sass in the role of his wife sings with tremendous character - she was a very gifted soprano, whose gift did not last long but here she reaches Callas-like levels of nuance and expressiveness. The excellent baritone, who was not very popular with record companies which preferred several of his less gifted rivals, shows us what he can do. This thrilling performance is beautifully conducted. Strongly recommended.

No Title Available

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful gift for elderly people and others, 22 Jan 2007
This was one of the best presents that I ever gave my elderly mother. It has kept her in touch with the members of her family who are scattered across three continents and bring them to her home. She loves it - once you have programmed it, it requires no maintenance, not turning on and off, nothing. It switches itself on automatically every day and displays anything up to 300 photographs in sequence or randomly. A great present. Only one small complaint - the device downloads images from a card onto its own rather limited menory in a rather unpredictable and uncontrollable fashion. I believe more recent models have fixed this problem. But don't let this put you off. You can give someone great pleasure by offering it to them.

The Successor
The Successor
by Ismaïl Kadaré
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.97

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The silences make this a deeply disturbing book, 10 Jan 2007
This review is from: The Successor (Paperback)
Earlier reviewers have offered excellent insights into the content and structure of this book and, especially, about its relation with what we know of the 'historical facts'. What I would like to add is that, for me, the book acquires its disturbing quality not so much from the (nearly) unresolved mystery of the the successor's death as from the silence that surrounds important aspects of the plot. While aclimate of terror surrounds many episodes of the plot and afflicts several of the core characters, the terror is portrayed with a light hand, suggested rather than described. The scene where the successor's successor is expelled from the party through a bureaucratic (rather than literal) lynching is absolutely memorable and worthy of Koestler. Yet, in a curious way, the successor himself remains a pale figure - we hear nothing of his own brutality and fanaticism. Yet, we hear a lot from his daughter, who seems to be immersed in her own unfulfilled dreams of love, quite oblivious to the miasma that afflicts the country. We hear nothing of the large numbers of 'ordinary' Albanians who lived lives of abject poverty and terro for four decades, while their rulers were living in the own fantasy worlds. While the terror in Orwell's 1984 is direct, in your face and total, the terror in this book has been normalized. And this makes it more horrendous.

The Schopenhauer Cure
The Schopenhauer Cure
by Irvin D. Yalom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.89

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for anyone interested in group psychotherapy, and a good read too, 22 Dec 2006
This review is from: The Schopenhauer Cure (Paperback)
The Schopenhauer Cure may not be the great novel that When Nietsche Wept is but it is a brilliant text. As a fictional account of group therapy at its best, it offers excellent insights into group dynamics and the way that a skillful group analyst can guide and encourage them to unfold. There are sections of the book that read like therapeutic versions of Plato's Symposium, where the dynamics of the characters, enable them to discover voices within themselves that they would not have known otherwise.

The book's central character, Dr Julius Hertzfeld, a group analyst with a year to live makes his final year of weekly meetings with a group of patients his last will and testament. The accounts of what goes on during these sessions are utterly compelling, the best feature of the book. The presence in these group sessions of a patient from Hertzfeld's past, Philip Slate (a meaningful name for those familiar with 'microcosms'), a self-confessed sex addict who found solace and a cure for his addiction in the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, is what gives them their unforgettable quality. Slate does not preach Schopenhauer, he lives him or at least tries to do so. The presence in the group of a victim of Slate's earlier addiction makes forces Slate to put his philosophy of life to the test. In the course of the therapy sessions, we rediscover the central characters afresh, share some of their preoccupations and struggles.

Two features of the book left me with more mixed feelings. The account of Julius, a man who has a year of life, is not as rich as that of the other characters. He comes across through the idealizing lenses through which his patients see him, or maybe Irvin Yalom, a fellow-psychotherapist, choses to portray him. When all patients confess a hidden part from their past, Julius, prompted by Philip, also makes a confession but it seems anodyne and defensive to the point where even cursory self-analysis would suggest that much more is hiding there. Julius's idealization of his dead wife also seems to conceal more than we are let in on. His attempt to live with the knowledge of imminent dying is only half-developed in the novel. What, however, is excellently portrayed is how his patients learn to live with their therapist's death, without experiencing him as a 'corpse', someone contact with whom is painful or embarrassing.

The other thing I found somewhat less compelling are the chapters that take us back to the life, thought and work of Schopenhauer. As a genre, it reminded me of Kundera's, episodic return to the world of Goethe in Immortality, but it does not work so well. Schopenhauer is a curious philosopher - I am not sure that anyone can get to know him through these brief excursions into his life. A misanthrope who came to advocate compassion, a fame-hunter who excoriated fame, a truly great thinker who disclocated Western philosophy from its firm pedestal of LOGOS and sought to relocate it on the WILL, he needs far more time and patience to understand than is available to Yalom. All the same, this is a formidable achievement and a must for anyone interested in group psychotherapy.

The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity
The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity
by James Lovelock
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can science save Gaia?, 14 Nov 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What makes James Lovelock's book so compelling is a combination of three ingredients - first, his defense of the Earth's biosphere as a self-regulating system; second, his persuasive analysis that indicates how close we are to the tipping point beyond which Gaia loses her self-regulating, regenerative qualities; and thirdly, his total commitment to science along with a refusal to indulge in any spiritualist hocus pocus which taints the work of so many other environmentalists. In his mid-80s, Lovelock remains truly a giant in the green movement - his arguments demand to be heard equally by those blissfully ignorant on the dangerous path that the Earth has entered under the influence of capitalist development (are there still any?) and by those who look for easy scapegoats, whether they are called 'big business', 'big science' or 'big government'.

But Lovelock's book may indeed underplay the negative influence of science which has fuelled all those (often irrational) public concerns and anxieties. In addition to science, we need a political will, international cooperation and the shock value of books like this to help initiate the kind of resonse that might help prevent Gaia's revenge.

Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion (Clarendon Paperbacks)
Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion (Clarendon Paperbacks)
by Robert Parker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £65.37

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book, 21 Sep 2006
This is an old-fashioned book full of old-fashioned virtues. Well-researched, well-argued and well-written. The subject is one that should interest all those concerned about the toxic and destructive qualities of groups, organizations and societies. It also demonstrates the unique usefulness of the Greeks' concept of miasma to our society, a miasmatic society if ever there was one. Strongly recommended.

Work, Consumption and Culture: Affluence and Social Change in the Twenty-First Century
Work, Consumption and Culture: Affluence and Social Change in the Twenty-First Century
by Paul Ransome
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.14

2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, 19 May 2006
Has consumption overtaken work as a source of meaning and identity for today's Western men and women. The question is obviously a fascinating one. Sad then to see what little today's sociologists can offer in the way of insight. Yes and no, no and yes. This book is so convoluted, formalistic and, in its use of examples, trite that the reader is left knowing little more than before reading the book. What is worse - reading this book may stifle creative thinking in an area that cultural scholars and critics (like Baumann and Bourdieu) have contributed much. Readers whouls star by reading these authors.

An Outline of Psychoanalysis (Penguin Modern Classics)
An Outline of Psychoanalysis (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Sigmund Freud
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect introduction to psychoanalysis, 19 May 2006
Read this short book if you want a succinct, enlightening and honest introduction to psychoanalysis. The last major piece of work completed by Freud in his 80s it reveals in an elegant manner the fine nuances of psychoanalysis, without resorting to naive simplifications and exaggerated claims. Readin gthis book, you will realize the titanic force of Freud's thinking and the dazzling originality of his ideas. This is far from the caricature of a straw-man which his critics enjoy attacking.

Rachmaninov:  Preludes Op23 & Op32
Rachmaninov: Preludes Op23 & Op32
Offered by FlorenciumBear
Price: £25.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful account of the preludes, 6 May 2006
I have long treasured this set of Rachmaninov's preludes and it is time to write a review commending them. The virtuosity is outstanding, but it always stays in the service of the music. The clarity and articulation are outstanding. What a pity that the blinkered record industry have not given us more recordings by this great artist, opting instead for a variety of hyped up (and ultimately doomed) performers.

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