Top positive review
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Any chance of a revised edition please?
on 25 August 2013
Since the 1920s, psychoanalytic thought has permeated our culture and the way we look at the world. It has found its way into everything from art to law, literature to anthropology. But the clinical world of the psychoanalyst remains mysterious. In this book, written in 1980, Janet Malcolm attempts to throw some light on the practice of psychoanalysis, its complexities, contradictions and difficulties.
She bases her explorations on a series of interviews with a well-established Manhattan practitioner ("Aaron Green") and it's his positions, as an orthodox Freudian, that are given centre stage (although she also touches on developments and elaborations such as the object-relations theory)
Malcolm knows her stuff, and this is one of the clearest explanations of some of the central practices in psychoanalysis that I have read. But its the "impossibilities" of the whole enterprise that are the focus of the discussion. In this respect, it makes a fascinating companion piece to Jefrey Masson's "Final Analysis". Masson was trained in a similar mileau at a similar time, so that many of the same tensions occur in both books; the unnaturalness of the patient-analyst relationship, the counter-intuitive nature of many interpretations, the secrecy of the professional hierarchy and its savage treatment of 'apostates'. Masson, as is well known, became disilliusioned and disgusted, culminating in his writing the incendiary "Against Therapy" and "The Assault on Truth". Malcolm is more considered, but even so, adds her own critique of Freud's "Dora" case (and rather persuasive it is too!).
However, overall, her approach is even handed, and the reader finishes the book feeling better informed, rather than harangued into taking one side or another.
A fascinating read that would fully justify 5 stars if only it were updated to reflect the changes in the field over the last 30 years or so.