Posts Tagged ‘book review’


December 30, 2014


The Russians Get There First

Leafing through this month’s Commentary magazine, I came across James Kirchick’s review of Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia by Peter Pomerantsev, a television producer who was attendant to much of the political doings in Russia during the first ten years of this century.  Apparently the thrust of this book is to chart the accomplishments of Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s political general.

Kirchick writes: “He is the “political technologist” responsible for the concept of “sovereign” or “managed” democracy – a post-modern apparatus of fake parties, fake parliaments, and fake dissidents.”  … “The man’s “genius,” Pomerantsev writes, is to “use the language of rights and representation to validate tyranny.”  …”Pomerantsev writes, “The Kremlin’s idea is to own all forms of political discourse, to not let any independent movements develop outside of its walls.”  The state throws support to transgressive artists while simultaneously funding the Orthodox Church, whose leaders protest those very artists’ exhibitions.”  …”The Russia Pomerantsev paints is a morally corrupt bizarro world that actively discourages integrity of any kind.”

Photo from Google Images

The Short Version / Reviews

October 15, 2014

The Fifty Minute Hour

A Pearl of a Story

All of the good books aren’t necessarily the new books.  Grubbing through the Olde Book Store, an enterprising reader can discover many treasures.   The Fifty Minute Hour by Robert Lindner is such a book.

I must have first purchased it used.  (Okay, partly perhaps because of the lurid cover.)  Then, I uncovered it again while unpacking from a recent move.  It looked interesting all over again, so I began reading.

When you read a book of a past era you find things that are spoken of and wisdoms imparted which you will not find in books of the present era.  Different environments hatch different people.  If it is a good book, you will find yourself missing the entire period as if you’d lived then.

The book is a collection of five case histories from a psychoanalytic perspective.  And as the cover suggests, they are not dry.  The best, however, is the last: the “Jet-Propelled Couch”.  This pearl of a story, I discovered myself after doing a bit of research, was initially published as a two part series in Harpers.  Steven Sondheim spent some time trying to produce it as a musical, before abandoning the project.  It “1957 it was finally dramatized as an episode of TV’s Playhouse 90”.  – wikipedia

The story is of a brilliant scientist who – while otherwise quite normal and engaging – is sent to the psychiatrist because of the mad belief that he visits other planets (where he rules, of course).  The psychoanalyst, after failing and abandoning all other strategies, decides that what is needed is for him to immerse himself likewise in the delusion.  The rationale is that two psychoses cannot inhabit the same space.  One will inevitably ‘call out’ the other.  In psychoanalysis this is called the principle (and strategy) of “participation therapy”.

Perhaps you can imagine what happens?

Our contemporary culture is quite adept at sniffing out what we would like and supplying it.  You participate long enough and you will find that our culture has located an area in you vulnerable to addiction – as you begin to feel the uncontrollable pull.

What our psychoanalyst finds is that if you filter your way through enough psychosis, it is likely you will find one which can harbor itself – finding a personal vulnerability – in you.

None of us is that far from going mad, is what this tale has to say.

Illustration from Amazon

From the Editor’s Perch…

July 21, 2014

Jennifer Woodworth How I Kiss Her Turning Head

Maternal Horror


Jennifer Woodworth’s newest book, How I Kiss Her Turning Head, which is just out by Monkey Puzzle Press, is a most gentle jaunt into the genre of Maternal Horror.  ‘Maternal Horror’ is a term I have had to coin myself.  But this is not Rosemary’s Baby.  This is the Brahms Lullaby of Xtreme Mothering.  The baby and child in these stories and sketches comprise a wonderful blessing – so wonderful, that we follow our first person hero as if pushing off down the pipe of some Xtreme Sport …  Right down the rabbit hole of maternal instinct, without time to say, “Hello!  Goodbye!” into a sort of mental ward where the ordinary and quotidian prerogatives of life conflict to our first person narrator’s charming wonderment.  And off we go, as the book paints a gentle rebellion for two.

“I have never wanted anything more than I want babies.”  The narrator tells us at the beginning of the first and best story, “Mother of One”.  And shortly she adds:

“I want another baby,” I say to my husband.”

“I know you do,” he says.  He means he does not want another child, not now, not ever.”


How charged and compact that exchange is!

Our author knows a subtext, and next to that, a rebellious flight of words.  All of this makes for a good read.  Her stories churn in the updraft of a contained conflagration.  Her words and flights of fancy are cloaked like actors to carry more romantic weight.  But all of the ducks here are rubber ducks.  Her first person narrator “contains multitudes” of insight, but all from an idea fixee.  Her first person narrator is entirely rational aside from being mostly fixated.  Imagine an Asperger of mothering, with the soft voice, and gentle nudging of the genuinely aware – and you’ll be getting close to the voice of this narrator.

The interest of the first story, “Mother of One” – which is a lovely jolt of maternal compulsion – is deciding partly where the horror lies.  Is the Surrogate Mother, or is the Outsourcing Birth Mother the monster of this tale.  Is it the narrator’s world which is a bit off kilter – or is it the narrator?  The ending tale finds our heroine legally confined but still rebellious.   Though it wouldn’t surprise me to hear our narrator reply from her ward – in an attractive way and with an appealing tone, (or perhaps she would just ‘suggest’), if asked, ‘how it could be “rebelling” when the world is backaswards?’.

Jennifer Woodworth has a playful dramatic sense, writes a fine narrative, composes a lovely tune with her words, and is smart enough to say things worth reading.  This is a small book to purchase and enjoy, and possibly to start your collection with.

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