SHRINKTALK- New Book by Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

September 11th, 2021 — 5:13pm

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir, MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

I am very pleased to tell you about the publication of a new book that I have written titled SHRINKTALK. It is based on my experience over many years in the field of psychiatry. It covers a wide variety of subjects such as ethical dilemmas that psychiatrists can face, dealing with anxiety, panic, depression, suicidal thoughts, sexuality, autism, post traumatic stress, psychological issues in regard to the Cornavirus epidemic as well as various medical conditions, my interactions with two U.S. Presidents and many other subjects. Also included in the book are answers to questions that I have provided for a popular website.

You can order the book in printed or Kindle version on Amazon. ( Click here )

I hope you will consider getting the book and if you like it, help me spread the word to your friends and colleagues and also consider writing a positive review on Amazon and elsewhere

Sincerely

Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

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Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

August 27th, 2021 — 10:56pm

Category: Uncategorized

HAMNET by Maggie O’Farrell

As we live in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, this novel by Maggie O’Farrell takes us back more than 500 years to England at the time of the Bubonic Plague. No vaccinations here, yet the local town people watch their neighbors and friends come down with the deadly disease. The story hones in on one family with three children, an older sister and two young twins, a boy and a girl. At first, it seemed as if the twin girl had been struck down with the plague, but she is to survive and much to the devastation of his parents, it is the boy who succumbs to the deadly disease. What follows is one of the most powerful descriptions of the grieving process that I have ever read in the many novels which I have come across which deal with death and dying.

Most probably if you were drawn to reading this book, you probably know that Hamnet is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In this story, Hamnet’s father is a playwright who spends most of his time in London writing and producing plays. The father is devastated as is the mother by the death of their son. This leads to the writing and the production of the immortal story of Hamlet. While the storyline is original and quite captivating, it is the skill and beautiful writing of Maggie O’Farrell, which, although slow at times, mostly holds our attention and makes this a worthwhile literary experience.

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Red Island House by Andrea Lee

July 11th, 2021 — 6:10pm

Category: FG - Fiction General

Red Island House by Andrea Lee

A black American woman professor marries an Italian business man and they build a vacation hotel on an island off the coast of Madagascar Africa. They spend part of the year at this house where they entertain guests, vacationers, as well as family members. They develop a relationship with the staff of the Red Island House. The reader becomes acquainted with many of these people including the various activities that go on not only at the hotel but on the island. This includes prostitution of young girls with older men and a very busy night club scene.

Before I go further, I must admit that had I not been reading this book for a book club, I would have backed out and probably would not have finished the book. Not only did I find much of the plot not interesting and repetitive but I found the vocabulary annoying in that I did not know the meaning of various words and I had to tap my Kindle to bring up the meaning, although I might have guessed them by the context (I will give examples later on).

Basically, the book follows the two main protagonists husband Senna and wife Shay (for some reason I thought their names should have been switched) throughout their life time and while I might not identify with their life experience, I did appreciate how the aging process was depicted. In my opinion. Th e most emotionally moving part of the book was where Bertine, one of the senior staff who has known the owners for many years passes away. The impact on Shay and her reminisces was very well done .

I thought any reader of this review might find it interesting to see a sampling of the words I had to look up and how I probably could guess the meaning of some of them from the context:

Maputo- unbelievable Maputo moves
manioc – manioc patches
tsingy grin – tsingy grin at the sky
pinon-watching snow melt on a pinon
memsahib- how a proper memsahib does things
palimpsest- palimpsest of tribal conflicts
crepuscular- directed towards a crepuscular lost dimension of history
bourn – a bourn has been crossed
moraingy- prostitutes moraingy boxers
louche- from the louche life which he was torn
schusses – schusses of the truck
congeries – congeries of discolored huts
lapidary – lapidary prose style
gibe- a word used as a gibe
salegy – a popular salegy trio
vazaha – a vazaha can’t understand
lambas – a woman’s lambas like flag

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo and Ishiguro

May 17th, 2021 — 8:55pm

Category: FC - Fiction Comedy, T - Recommended for Teenagers

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

This story takes place sometime in the future when science has progressed to the point where “Artificial Friends (AF)” are available. These are manmade products that look exactly like a human being and have the ability to think and act as an actual person although they are nonhuman. This story is told by Klara, an AF who is bought by a family to be companion to Josie, a young woman who is in her late teens and has some kind of an illness that might seriously shorten her life. The storyline attempts to examine the relationship between Josie and a young man, which seems somewhat unusual or atypical. Klara is also very attuned to the power of the sun, which seems to suggest an analogy to God with unlimited powers of life and death. There was also a theme, that is never fully developed, whether an AF can possibly get to know a person so well that she could take over relationships with other people should that person die. The storyline is quite unique and raises some interesting questions, but never really delivers. In my opinion, it is difficult to relate to the characters, and in the end, there was very little to take away, nor in this writer’s judgment was it worth the ride. This is particularly disappointing since this is the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the noble prize in literature.

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A Promised Land by Barack Obama

April 22nd, 2021 — 1:27am

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir, P - Political

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I remembered very clearly when my wife and I first encountered Barack Obama when he gave the Democratic keynote address in 2004. I recall my wife saying that she is “ready to follow this man” and then watch him eventually become president. This book gives the reader a firsthand account of this amazing journey as well as a good feel of some of his preceding years. It comes across as a very honest inside look at not only Obama’s political rise to the presidency, but some of his preliminary years growing up and coming of age politically in Chicago. The president is very generous in giving credit to his mentors, advisors, speech writers, and of course to Michelle and his children. The book would be worthwhile by itself if it were just for his firsthand account of what led up to the secret mission to find and ultimately kill Osama bin Laden and this amazing operation. At the conclusion of the book, there were some wonderful photographs, which unfortunately were difficult to enlarge in our i-pad version, that complemented the book in a very worthwhile manner.

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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro

March 15th, 2021 — 6:18pm

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

This book is written by a successful middle-aged author who has published several books both fiction and non-fiction books. This one is about a very personal experience, which occurred to her after she took a popular DNA ancestry test. She received results, which indicated that the man (now deceased, as was her mother) who she always felt was her father was actually not her biological father. She shares with the reader a very personal and emotional journey where she tracks down and meets her biological father who turns out to have been a medical student who donated sperm to some pioneering and perhaps questionable in vitro fertilization program, which led to her parents being able to have their own child.

There are so many fascinating aspects to this very personal, persistent journey where the author eventually meets her biological father, now a retired physician and some of his family. She shares her childhood memories of how at times she was told by people despite being an Orthodox Jew, that she did not look Jewish. She embarked upon an obsessive adventure to try to understand if her parents actually knew that she was conceived with donor sperm.

Not only is the author a talented writer, but she was able to explore many leads and spoke to many people as she reconstructed her story. This included rabbis who knew her father and various people who knew about the pioneering, if not questionable, program where her parents sought out a solution to their infertility. In fact, one big question that the author pondered was whether or not her parents actually knew that she was conceived by a donor, or did they believe that the in vitro fertilization was actually just increasing the chance of a successful pregnancy or did they know that there was mixing of sperm with her father and the donor. There were these and many other questions related to the search for a self identify.

This obviously is fascinating story, which I have encountered in similar forms over the years. There are also some very interesting movies, which have addressed various aspects of this issue. Examples of some of the films that have addressed these issues are People Like Us, Stories We Tell, Mother And Child, Admission, The Kids Are All Right.

I have also written about this subject in some detail in my soon to be published book ShrinkTalk. When discussing this subject, I often challenge myself and my conversation partners with the following question, “What would you do and how would you feel if you received a letter from the hospital where you were born, which stated that they were computerizing their hospital records and they determined that you were accidentally switched at birth?” An alternative question would be “that your child was accidentally switched at birth with another child.” Would you want to meet your actual biological parents? (or would you want to meet your biological now grown child if it were your child that was switched?) and how would you feel if it were your child that was switched at birth and that grown child now was very anxious to meet with his or her biological parent? My friends to whom I have posed this theoretical question have had very strong reactions to it. I also find that many people have some true variations to this story that they know that have actually occurred in real life.

All this makes this book a well-written, thought provoking book by a very talented writer who shares a very personal and provocative tale.

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The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

March 9th, 2021 — 11:16pm

Category: FH - Fiction Historical, FT- Fiction Thriller, HI - History

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

When I came across this outstanding book about the Holocaust, I was immediately reminded of all the excellent and meaningful books I have read about this subject. The first one probably being The Diary of Anne Frank and then so many other such interesting reads such as The Thief, The Nightingale, All the Light We Cannot See, Schindler’s List, as well as many others including many that I have not yet read.

This story is about a woman who has skills, which make her an excellent forger, which allows her to save the lives of many children and adults as they escape from the Nazis. In doing so, she puts her own life at great risk. This triggers a familiar question, “Could I have put my own life at such a great risk if faced with a similar situation.” Most of us will never know, but as we experience the bravery of this woman, we are challenged to consider this question.

The story highlights the complexities of the parent-child relationship in this difficult situation. Factor in a love and romance and the conflicts of such feelings when the woman has these feelings towards a non-Jewish man that she never imagined could take place.

The great value of this book is not only that it is a well written adventure story with romance, intrigue, and danger, most important, it reminds us that Nazi Germany existed in the lifetime of some of us or in the lifespan of our parents and cannot be allowed to be forgotten.

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Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

February 11th, 2021 — 10:47pm

Category: FH - Fiction Historical

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

What could be more fitting during this year of COVID-19 then to read a book that take places in the 17th century during the Black Plague and how it impacted a small isolated village in England. The story is mostly through the eyes of one woman, Anna Frith, a young widow who becomes very close to the local pastor and his wife. There is death spreading like wildfire throughout the village with burials seeming to occur on every page. The village under the leadership of the pastor decides that they will isolate themselves from other communities, so not to spread this deadly disease to nearby towns, which seemingly have not been impacted the plague. There are subplots, which deal with romance, affairs, jealousy, greed, murder, and revenge, etc. The major impact of the loss of spouses, children, and threat of death everywhere leads to major challenges for the various characters some of whom appear to rise to the occasion and others go off the deep end. As impactful as our modern plague is to our society today, it does not seem that we have deteriorated as have some of the characters in this story, at least not yet.

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The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

December 22nd, 2020 — 11:49pm

Category: FM - Fiction Mystery

The Other Americans By Laila Lalami

This is a mystery or a whodunnit, but it is also a slow reveal of family secrets and various prejudices that existed in a small town. Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant living with his wife in California is killed by a hit and run driver. It turns out that the driver knew the victim as they had businesses near each other and had previous minor conflicts. The driver also claimed that he hit a coyote and did not believe he had killed anyone. As family relationships are revealed as well as early friendships, there is insight into many of these relationships that go beyond the tragic incident.

This reader never quite got into the story. Each chapter was interesting on its own, but never was a page turner for me. It may have been that there were long periods of time between reads for me. However, I cannot recommend this book.

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Last Days of NIght by Graham Moore

November 18th, 2020 — 11:20pm

Category: FH - Fiction Historical

Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

To New Yorkers Cravath may bring up the name of a very well healed prestigious law firm. Apparently, one of the founders of this law firm when he was just starting out is one of the main characters of this book. Circumstances brought Paul Cravath to represent George Westinghouse, a pioneer inventor who is being sued by another prestigious inventor, Thomas Edison, who had invented direct current electricity and the light bulb and who would eventually be credited with inventing motion pictures and playing a major role in the invention of the telephone. This is a book of historical friction, which examined the fascinating conflicts between these two men along with the role played by another genius inventor, Nikola Tesla.

As we sit comfortably in our well-lit home and read this book, we may not appreciate the differences between direct current and alternating current and the nuances of various electrical bulbs. While much of the dialogues and events in this book are fabricated they are based on true conflicts and events. There is also a fascinating description about the first electrocution by electric chair, which was quite messy and witnessed by the press. The insight into these characters while done with some poetic license is never the less quite fascinating. There was even a cameo by Alexander Graham Bell, another inventor of the telephone.

A couple of years ago, there was a movie based on these electric characters called “The Current War” but this book provides more depth and holding power than the film in our opinion. In other words, it was a page turner. In between the chapters, there were various quotes from famous inventors over the years. While they were interesting on their own, they did not relate to the content of the previous or the next chapter and therefore this writer felt they were an unwelcome diversion.

I do not know if there was a major conflict between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs about the invention and development of the computer, but it would not surprise me if it has not been written already that there will be a fascinating story about that relationship as there was this look at about an electrical story of the past (2020).

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