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Customer reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
On Balance
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 30 August 2017
good book, thoughtful
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on 25 November 2016
Arrived as described. Thank you.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 January 2015
"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).
So, I like this exploration of an underexamined notion; I find Phillips' thinking challenging, sometimes delightful and always worth considering.
To adapt the famous Irish Joke: to best appreciate him, do not start from here, go to his debut then you will find whether he is for you. It will save you from sarcasm, book-throwing, anger and all those other reactions that may or may not be signs of an unwillingness to deal with what you need to!
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on 17 December 2012
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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on 17 July 2015
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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on 23 May 2013
I got about two-thirds of the way through this book before pitching it across the room. I am a pretty dogged reader and will plough through the dullest texts to suck out meaning. But this author is determined to hide any meaning in a thicket of unnecessary words and confusion. He is almost incapable of writing a sentence without numerous sub-clauses and sub-sub-clauses. I asked my wife (an editor) to read a page - any page - in the book at random. She struggled to complete it, but chose the following as her favourite bit:

"It is as if we are also the animals ... for whom either there is quite literally an incapacity - some things are just inarticulable; or for whom to speak of such things - to speak of things that matter most - would entail such potential loss, that they are to all intents and purposes unspeakable."

This is a fairly standard sample, and there is far worse. I suppose it means "People find it painful to talk about things that are important to them". But to write it that way would expose the banality of the point. And if you take the time to unravel the sentences their meaning is almost always banal - or meaningless. I suggest you don't take the time.
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on 25 October 2014
As usual Adam Phillips delivers a fascinating, interesting meal of a book to be devoured with relish.
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on 6 December 2011
I had seen an interview with Adam Philips and I really liked what he said, so I ordered this book but it's not what I thought it would be: more new and useful information about kids. I haven't felt like finishing this book
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