Archive for 2016


Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

December 16th, 2016 — 1:05am

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-10-59-30-pmHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis

by J.D. Vance

This is a compassionate view of the white lower working class in which the author grew up. It provides an insight to the part of rural America which supported the incoming President of the United States, Donald Trump. The author proudly wears the name “hillbilly” and acknowledges that many parts of America look down upon that designation.

J.D. Vance grew up in Middletown, Ohio after his grandparents immigrated from Kentucky where coal mining jobs and other work were drying up and the mills and factories of the Mid-West seemed to offer opportunity for employment and some upward mobility. As we know, more recently there have been rough times for this area which became known as the “rust belt.” If you are not coming from a family of some means that is handed over to you, one must rely on the character traits that you have that will motivate you and allow you to navigate in this world. Family is very crucial here. J.D. Vance certainly did not have a role model from his parents. His mother, who showed flashes of caring for him did not provide emotional or any other type of support. She was a drug addict who ran through about five different husbands.

J.D. Vance’s saviors were his grandparents. His grandfather known as Papaw was probably an alcoholic who at least had a job but didn’t form any strong bond with the author. The most important person to him in his youth was his grandmother known as Mamaw – a very tough woman with whom he periodically lived and who gave him confidence in himself. He was obviously bright but came very close to dropping out of high school. Thanks to Mamaw, an occasional teacher and perhaps one or two other relatives he developed the “right stuff” not only to graduate high school but then had the where with all to join the United States Marine Corps where he served for four years. Having recently seen the movie “Fences” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, we also appreciated another situation where joining the Marine Corps after high school, in this case a young black man was able to receive support and direction that he couldn’t get from his family.

J.D. Vance’s success in going through Ohio State University after the Marine Corps and working at various jobs to provide him money that he needed reflected his determination. He was then surprised at getting accepted at Yale Law School with very good financial support because he was probably the most needy student that was admitted that year. His observations of what it meant to be a student at Yale Law School were notable. He made the point that it was the connections and the networking which made all the difference in the world and opened so many doors for him.

Mr. Vance on one hand makes the point that self-will and determination are the necessary ingredients to succeed in the world but he also says that he wouldn’t have succeeded without the love and confidence in him provided by his grandparents. Without these factors he is sure he would not have made it out of Appalachia. This book informs us about the lives, trials and tribulations of people that many of us might never meet. It provides important insight and raises some very stimulating questions. It is a book well worth reading.

 

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

My Way by Paul Anka

November 21st, 2016 — 4:44pm

My Way by Paul Ankascreen-shot-2016-11-21-at-2-08-00-am

I have always enjoyed the music of Paul Anka. So when someone told me that he wrote this book and told all about the behind the scenes goings on of the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, I thought it might be worth reading, especially since Frank Sinatra has always been one of my heroes.

Well, it turned out to be a very interesting book, but the heroes moved down a couple of notches. Frank Sinatra turns out to frequently be an unpleasant drunk when he drank lot which he often did. Sammy Davis, Jr., is shown to be a promiscuous bisexual but interestingly enough, Dean Martin wasn’t the lush that was often his public persona and apparently avoided the wild drinking parties of the other Rat Pack members.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that women were objectified by this group. Sinatra apparently surprised his friends when he said in response to a question that the women who was best in bed wasn’t Ava Gardner but was Angie Dickinson, adding according to Anka that he said he “really loved that woman.”

Paul Anka was born in Canada and burst on to the world stage as a teenager. He is a very talented singer and songwriter who has reinvented himself several time and still is performing into his ‘70s. His love of his work clearly comes through in this book. His song writing ability and his decision to write for other performers as well as himself makes him quite unique. He wrote Frank Sinatra’s signature song “My Way” and even wrote the Tonight Show theme song among numerous other mega hit songs. He has performed in just about every major venue around the world and has recorded bestselling albums in the United States and in other countries, as well as in different languages. Not only was he friends and part of the Rat Pack but he was also good friends with Elvis, Bobby Darin, Bob Dylan and numerous other big name stars.

The person who writes the book gets to paint his own history and is able to tell about others any way that he wishes to do so. For example, Anka relates how Ed McMahon was a somewhat stingy guy and one time Anka played a joke on him by calling his hotel room and pretending to be the hotel staff. He told McMahon that there were going to be noisy renovations taking place near his room and that they can move him to another room or let him stay there for free and give him ear muffs to block out the sound which was the choice that McMahon made.

The reader gets the impression that Anka avoided heavy drinking and drugs and we only get a vague reference that he had all the girls he wanted early in his career. He tells how he loved his parents who were quite supportive of him. His mother died at an early age and his father helped him in his business. Anka had five daughters from his first marriage which lasted 38 years and then was briefly married for 18 months. He revealed very little about his personal foibles but I thought his description of his long marriage and the breakup was notable and I will quote part of it here.

I am a singer of love songs, I sing songs of everlasting love, how you’re the only one – and I believe in it. But sometimes these things don’t work out in your private life. I was married to Anne for 38 years and I love her still. She is the mother of my five daughters who have all brought terrific son-in-laws into our family and we had a great life together. I love this woman. I always will. Getting divorced from Anne was just something I had to do for myself. Our kids were gone, our lives changed, our relationship changed. I can’t remain in something – even a long time of loving marriage – when I’m no longer experiencing things honestly. I didn’t want to be dishonest to someone I love even if that meant separating and so in 2001, Anne and I were divorced. There was no animosity, no big fights – I just wanted out of the box. We talk almost every day… I gave Anne everything that was legally hers and I threw in our art collection (that is worth millions) because I know how much she loved it, and other considerations but I said, “None of this down the middle stuff.

Anka appears to be very gratified for his great success as a performer, he describes many musicians, managers, agents, and performers who were his good friends. He detailed his relationship with Steve Wynn, the wealthy Las Vegas hotel mogul and his many interesting stories about him including one about Donald Trump which is in character with his current persona.

Towards the end of the book, Anka clearly describes how he feels every time he performs and steps on the stage. The intensity of that experience and his connection with the audience is very impressive.

I am sure he didn’t write this book for the royalties that it might bring. He probably chose to share at least part of his life and perhaps try to influence the legacy that he will leave. It was a nice read but he need not worry, as his music will live on and define Paul Anka for many generations. To listen to one of Paul Anka’s biggest hits click here.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

October 13th, 2016 — 2:19pm

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman51mquehbm3l-_sl300_

This is a Swedish book all about a man who could be described as a “crabby old man…curmudgeon…angry…stubborn…etc..” He doesn’t seem to like new technology such as the Internet. He only buys Saab automobiles. He seems fixed in his ways. Now older people are known to gravitate towards these characteristics. (So I have been told) But wait, he really wasn’t that old. It was mentioned a few times that he was 59 years old. Maybe this is all relative or perhaps the author was fairly young when he wrote this book. (I was able to determine that he was 32 years old when the book was published)

As the book progresses, especially through various gravesite one way conversations with his deceased wife we learn about the very close relationship he had with her during their 40 years of a childless marriage in which they both seemed to be very happy. We see that beneath it all Ove is a caring person who will teach a pregnant neighbor to learn how to drive, build her a crib for her expected child, relate to a young kid next door and have some very endearing characteristics although hidden under his gruff surface. There is also a part of him that can’t find the reason to live and seemed determined to carry out a neatly organized suicide. We can even empathize with him especially when we see that he clearly believes he will be reunited with his beloved wife.

The main character did hold my interest but overall this book was not a page turner for me.. The success of this book, I believe is to the degree in which the reader relates to Ove and finds important characteristics in him with which to self-identify. In the case of women, I  imagine if they would have to recognize in him certain traits of the men that they love. I personally  could indentify  with  someone who cares more than he overtly shows it. Perhaps that is a guy thing. Then there is the issue that his wife really understood him and now that she was gone, he had to find a way to hold on to her. The book certainly did not have a complicated plot. We were not taken to exotic places or given unusual dilemmas. I could only hope that the pending movie can raise the pulse of this story.

Comment » | FG - Fiction General

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

September 25th, 2016 — 10:53pm

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-7-37-56-pmThe Vietnam War was of my generation. I served in the Air Force in Texas 1968-1970. I recalled vividly the anti-war protesters of that time. There were many great movies about this war that I have seen which includes Apocalypse Now, Platoon and many others. I have met and spoken with refugees from Vietnam including those who identified themselves as “Boat People.” I have a rudimentary understanding of the French colonialism of Vietnam, the rise of communism, the war between the North and South, America’s entry into it and the ultimate withdrawal and the Fall of Saigon. I can’t say that this well-written book clarified this complicated political history to any great degree. In fact, it may have blurred the margins of some of the issues and muted my simplistic view of them. However, what this novel did provide for me was an insight into the personal viewpoints and struggles that many of the native players have gone through as they overtly and covertly battled each other for the heart and soul of this country.

This is a story of revolution and counterrevolution. It occurred in an era of brainwashing, torture, hidden moles, intelligence and counterintelligence. I realized that one’s belief and loyalty to a particular political cause may very well depend on where you were born. But on the other hand, it becomes clear in this case that once the communist revolution succeeded in the North and then in the South, the so-called collective society itself became oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical. This is certainly one of the messages of this book.

This book was well researched and well written. In fact, it is the author’s style and way with words that entertains as well as educates the reader. While most of the sentences of this book were of average length, there was one somewhat lengthy one which will give you a taste of this book and the skill and style of the author:

We could not forget the caramel flavor of iced coffee with coarse sugar; the bowls of noodle soup eaten while squatting on the sidewalk; the strumming of a friend’s guitar while we swayed on hammocks under coconut trees; the football matches played barefoot and shirtless in alleys, squares, parks, and meadows; the pearl chokers of morning mist draped around the mountains; the labial moistness of oysters shucked on a gritty beach; the whisper of a dewy lover saying the most seductive words in our language, anh oi; the rattle of rice being threshed; the workingmen who slept in their cyclos on the streets, kept warm only by the memories of their families; the refugees who slept on every sidewalk of every city; the slow burning of patient mosquito coils; the sweetness and firmness of a mango plucked fresh from its tree; the girls who refused to talk to us and who we only pined for more; the men who had died or disappeared; the streets and homes blown away by bombshells; the streams where we swam naked and laughing; the secret grove where we spied on the nymphs who bathed and splashed with the innocence of the birds; the shadows cast by candlelight on the walls of wattled huts; the atonal tinkle of cowbells on mud roads and country paths; the barking of a hungry dog in an abandoned village; the appetizing reek of the fresh durian one wept to eat; and the sight and sound of orphans howling by the dead bodies of their mothers and fathers; the stickiness of one’s shirt by afternoon, the stickiness of one’s lover by the end of lovemaking, the stickiness of our situations; the frantic squealing of pigs running for their lives as villagers gave chase; the hills afire with sunset; the crowned head of dawn rising from the sheets of the sea; the hot grasp of our mother’s hand; and while the list could go on and on and on, the point was simply this: the most important thing we could never forget was that we could never forget.

Although I don’t think that this book would be at the top of my list, it did win a Pulitzer Prize. So if this subject is of interest to you, The Sympathizer should be worth the ride.

 

Comment » | FH - Fiction Historical

The Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

August 29th, 2016 — 11:23pm
           Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.16.41 PMThe Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

This book must be meant for readers deep into science fiction preferably with a good background in astronomy. I am only a causal student of the above so early on I found myself mostly at a loss what the dialog was all about. It was as if I were immersed in a place where another language was spoken and I only had taken an introductory course  in that language many years ago. However, because I chose to live for awhile in this land ( in other words I was going to continue reading the book although the people were speaking a foreign language) eventually I began to catch on what was going on as is often the case with immigrants settling into a new country

What was going on was quite fascinating and mind boggling One day people on earth looked up at the moon and noticed that it had become split into 8 discrete pieces. Scientists on earth soon realized that as a result of this event there would be a gradual but exponential increase in the number and size of meteorites crashing into earth They confidently predicted that in 20 years there would be a “Reign Of Rocks” that would destroy everything on the face of the earth. The only chance for any humans to survive would be those residents of the space station circling the earth.There was a great effort to expand the space center with numerous small “arklets” attached  to a massive structure floating in space where a  relatively small number of humans could live . There was a worldwide “Casting of the Lots” to choose representatives of all the peoples of earth. There is an attempt also to bring genetic samples up in space and futuristic understanding of genetics is an important part of this story.

This book follows the plight of these humans  and their descendants in space as it takes 5000 years for the surface of the earth to be cooled down where it can be  safe explored  There is character development as a good novel should offer but also an opportunity to follow the various characters  and characteristics of their descendants. There are plots and subplots. Science is an important part of this book and the author stretched our imagination in physics , aeronautics, biology and  robotics. In the epilogue we are told that several scientists in different fields have read drafts of the book and made various suggestions.

I would be very surprised if this book becomes a best seller.  I do think it will make a great movie. There are vivid descriptions of futuristic structures as well as varied human appearances with the passage of time and evolution. These would make  great visuals for a film.  I believe  a creative script based on this novel should be able to capture the futuristic  human interaction described in this piece  and could also highlight  some of the interesting plot developments. For most of you,  wait for the movie rather than struggle through the book.

Comment » | FSF - Fiction Science Fiction

The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton

July 21st, 2016 — 10:45pm

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 5.00.55 PMThe Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton

Kevin Dutton, the author of this book is a PhD research psychologist at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford. His principal research interests are persuasion and social influence, and the psychopathic personality. This is his 4th book and 3 of them also clearly deal with psychopaths

This book is all about the Psychopathic Personality. While all aspects of this interesting entity are discussed from many view points, I don’t believe a clear definition was put forth- probably because there are some disagreements about many of the fine points. For the purpose of this review I will go by the definition of Psychopathic Personality as being a personality disorder characterized by amorality and lack of affect; capable of violent acts without guilt feelings. In the psychiatric literature the term was superseded by “ sociopathic personality ” which then evolved to the  “antisocial personality”

In the latest Diagnostic Statistical Manual-5 ( DSM-5), the term antisocial personality is used and defined as “ A persuasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 as indicated by THREE (or more) of the following:

  • Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
  • Deceitfulness as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • Consistent irresponsibility as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another

The individual also must be at least 18 years of age, there has to be  evidence of the disorder starting before age 15 and it should not exclusively occur during the course of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The author describes, to my mind, fascinating research by various authors about this entity. Often various scales are used to define the psychopathic personality that incorporate different aspects of the above criteria. Some would appear to emphasize some criteria and others would favor different criteria. Some researchers used very extensive tests and others would just ask a few questions. Before I go further, readers might was to take an 11 question test to see where they fit in on the psychopathic scale as determined by this short questionnaire.

Another test that he uses is a variation of the classical moral dilemma of the overcrowded lifeboat. Either some people have to be thrown overboard and die in the icy waters or they all will die. Various subjects are asked this question and how fast they answer, what their answer would be and perhaps what part their brain was shown to be active while they were deciding, all might be studies and the results would also be analyzed according to their scoring on a psychopathic scale of one type or the other.

Various components of the psychopathic personality are broken down and studied. For example, the author was interested in the fact that college students are trending to be less empathic and more narcissistic in various research studies.

The author is very interested in epigenetics, which is the change in how a gene is expressed without changing the DNA sequence. This would appear to be looking at how environmental factors influence how the gene is going to be expressed. This could occur to the fetus during pregnancy or I would suggest the same definition could occur by experience in childhood but all impacting on some genes that perhaps had a tendency to produce psychopathy. The author considers also how such things as child abuse might even produce an enzyme that in a susceptible individual might make them more aggressive.

The book is a hybrid between an interesting non-fiction discussion of the psychopath and a scholarly textbook. as would be the case in the latter many references are cited but not in the usual scholarly form but rather by an asterix(*), which leads the reader to the appendix where the topic is superficially discussed. Not knowing the research, we are left with the author’s conclusion about it without any critical analysis. For example we are not told the degree of statistical analytic support (or if there was statistical proof or just a trend) nor are we told if there might be other explanations that might shed light on a particular research finding.

There are many interesting questions raised by the author about the psychopath and various characteristics, which make up psychopathy.

For example, the psychopath often has ability to remain calm and objective under stress with razor sharp focus which might be useful in sports as a quarterback under pressure, a fireman in a dangerous situation and maybe even as a Navy Seal. You might want one in your foxhole unless of course there were a situation where only one person could survive.

There are many unexpected angles that the author uses to approach the analysis of psychopaths. He even makes the case that Saint Paul was a psychopath and that there could be a thin line between Saint and a psychopath. After all isn’t mindfulness an altered state where one is present, open, and alert with all judgment and interpretations suspended?

There is a discussion about empathy, something of which we might imagine that the psychopath would be in short supply. However in the riveting discussion about some sadistic serial killers, it was that exquisite ability to feel their victim’s pain, which was converted to pleasure and drove them to their numerous twisted murders.

So whether you are clinician or a layperson that has been fascinated by the characteristics often defined by the term psychopath, this book will hold your interest and even get you to wonder if deep down you have some of these traits.

Comment » | MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

11/22/63 by Stephen King

July 14th, 2016 — 11:18pm

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.09.58 AM11/22/1963

By Stephen King

The main character of this novel is Jake Epping, a school teacher in Maine, who is introduced to a “rabbit hole” in time. That is, if he steps through an opening in a pantry and finds an invisible but palpable small staircase, he will come out on the other side on a particular day in 1958. No matter how long he stays at this new time when he steps back to his original time, it will be that he has only been gone for two minutes. He is introduced to this unusual situation by Al, an acquaintance who is an older man dying of cancer who has made several excursions back to 1958 and lived there for a while. As indicated in the title of this book, “11/22/63” is an important date in this story. As any American knows this was the date that President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Old dying Al was planning to stop the assassination of JFK and now hopes that Jake will take on this task and he provides him with some preliminary observations on Oswald that Al has made during his several visits back in time.

As you can imagine this can be a complicated process. How would this presidential assassin be stopped? What about the lingering question whether Oswald acted alone? Also, if you are going back in time even for such a worthy cause might you also try to change the course of some other events perhaps prevent an innocent child being murdered or scarred for life? But most important, what are the implications of traveling back in time and altering history?

Who better to take on these questions than Stephen King, one of the most successful, prolific contemporary authors of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, fantasy and science fiction? This novel published in 2011 was approximately King’s 52nd novel which doesn’t include his very numerous other writing endeavors such as novellas, short stories, movies, television programs and many other projects dating back to 1974 when his first novel Carrie was published. King has established himself as one of the creative writing geniuses of modern times. Not only is he original and very imaginative but he builds these ideas within insightful character development. King also does extensive research on all aspects of his subject matter. In this case, as discussed by the author in the epilogue to the book, which included interviews with him, he has read extensively about the history of JFK and his untimely death. This included numerous books written about all the circumstances, details and cast of characters of the events that occurred on 11/22/63. He also spent time visiting and studying Dallas and The Book Depository where Oswald was perched to shoot Kennedy as well as other places mentioned in the book.

Perhaps the most stimulating aspect of this book to me is the intriguing so called “butterfly question”. If one could travel back in time and change anything, how would that alter future events which would impact on other subsequent events? Would the slightest flutter or minute change in the course of history cause other changes which might cascade to unexpected major events? Would seemingly insignificant changes lead to more meaningful changes? Even if one could alter the course of history, can we be sure it would ultimately be for the better?

As Jake, the main character of this book, immerses himself into the past, readers cannot help but be on the edge of their reading seats whether we are flipping pages or pushing buttons. We find ourselves wondering what would we do and how would we do it if we found ourselves being able to go through that rabbit hole in time? There were surprises, moments of elation and disappointments. I could not wait to find how the story would end and I was sorry when it was over.

Comment » | FH - Fiction Historical, FSF - Fiction Science Fiction

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

July 1st, 2016 — 8:58pm

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat KhanScreen Shot 2016-07-01 at 8.48.54 AM

This is a convoluted detective story which ultimately reflects the history of the 1992 Genocide in Bosnia. My reaction and experience to this novel was to be so overwhelmed with the truth and the harsh reality of this modern day horrific set of events which occurred under the watchful eye of the United Nations and the entire world, that I had little interest in the fictionalized story that was being weaved. The appendix at the end of the book which documented numerous such examples stood out in my mind as much more significant than the fictionalized, interspersed chapters in italics, which were supposed to be accounts of people related to the characters in the novel who were killed and tortured. Nothing in the book was as real as the accounts in the appendix at the end of the book. My response to this may be related to the fact that while I knew about the events in Bosnia I had little familiarity, previously, with the details.

If this fictionalized story stimulated any special thoughts in my mind, it would be identifying with a dilemma of one of the main characters in the story. That is, if I knew for sure that I were face-to-face with a horrible murderer of many people who had personally brought about death, rape and torture of many friends and family – and if the authorities had failed to act and bring him to justice despite my efforts to provide documented information about what he had done and his availability to be captured, and if I had the ability and the opportunity to push him over a cliff to his death and never be found out to be the killer, would I do it?? I suppose that is a no brainer. The book did suggest the question also, should the police arrest me if they believed I did it.

 

Comment » | FH - Fiction Historical, FM - Fiction Mystery

Blood Flag by Steve Martini

June 14th, 2016 — 6:51pm

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.37.43 AMBlood Flag by Steve Martini

Not too long ago, I read Compelling Evidence, the first of 14 novels written by Steve Maritini ,which features private detective, Paul Madriani. This book was published in 1992 and I found it a terrific read and enjoyed the courtroom insight and intrigue. So now, I jumped to his latest novel in this series titled, Blood Flag. Perhaps my expectations were too high as I eagerly looked to see how the author had elevated his game after a quarter of a century.

Paul Madriani, the lawyer, was there with Harry, his trusted partner. There also was his special private investigator, Herman, who has a team of his “guys” to dig up information to further the plot. I thought these guys were overused to provide information for the story line.

The story begins as Madriani takes on a new client, an old woman who is accused of killing her hospitalized husband with an insulin injection in a mercy-type killing, which she denies. The deceased husband is connected with his World War II buddies who were in Berlin at the end of the war when Hitler committed suicide. They become linked to “Blutfahne” also known as the bloody flag, which is purported to have been designed by Adolf Hitler. (Remember, he was a struggling artist before the war). This flag was believed to have been first flown in Munich at the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 where Hitler was arrested and put in jail (where he wrote Mein Kampf). There are supposed to be various keys to a safe deposit box where this symbolic, historical, iconic object is said to have been hidden.

Rather than being an exciting courtroom drama, which characterized his first novel in this series, this latest one in the series seems to me to have turned into a convoluted detective story. I didn’t believe that the characters were that well developed so I didn’t really care about most of them. Certainly, the author still has his touch in writing a dramatic moment or a confrontation, which occurred near the end of the book. I may have to give the author another chance by reading one of his earlier novels but I can’t recommend this latest one.

 

 

Comment » | FM - Fiction Mystery

Moving Images: Psychoanalytic Reflections of Film by Andrea Sabbadini

June 10th, 2016 — 4:12pm

The following is a book review which I wrote and  appeared in Psychodynamic Psychiatry Volume 41 Number 3  Fall 2016 p 162-166Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 3.49.26 PM

Moving Images: Psychoanalytic Reflections of Film, by Andrea Sabbadini, Routledge, London and New York, 2014, 140 pp.

While reading this book, I kept pondering the question of who would be the best audience for it. The author, Andrea Sabbadini, is a psychoanalyst who is extremely knowledgeable about film, especially classic European movies. His stated goal for the book is to offer discussion of films from a psychoanalytic perspective and in the process of doing so, to use the films in order to illustrate a number of psychoanalytic ideas and to convey a sense of what analytic work consists. Anyone who is familiar with many of the movies discussed in this book and understands psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theory would be the ideal audience for it. However, even knowledgeable psychoanalysts with out having seen these films would find it difficult to relate to the book. Similarly, students of cinema who may have seen the films mentioned, would probably get lost in the erudite psychoanalytic discussion presented in this book. Unfortunately, that would seem to leave a very small audience for this book. However, I do see an important value for it which I will discuss at the conclusion of this review.

This 140-page soft-covered book has six chapters which I will list below with two of the several movies discussed in each chapter.

Chapter 1: “A Young Profession: Films on Psychoanalysis” Spellbound (Hitchcock, 1945)
Il Postino (Radford, 1994)

Chapter 2: “…and the Oldest One: Films on Prostitution” Nights of Cabiria (Fellini, 1957)
Belle de Jour (Buñuel, 1967)

Chapter 3: “The Young Ones: Films on Children” The Spirit of the Beehive (Erice, 1973)
German Year Zero (Rossellini, 1948)

Chapter 4: “…and Slightly Older Ones: Films on Adolescents” Heavenly Creatures (Jackson, 1994)
City of God (Meirelles, 2002)

Chapter 5: “Between Eros and Thanatos: Films on Love” A Pornographic Affair (Fonteyne, 1999)
Amores Perros (Inarritu, 2000)

Chapter 6: “Watching Voyeurs: Films on Scopophilia” Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954)
Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960)

The book opens with a discussion of films about psychoanalysis in which the author touches on how the psychoanalytic profession has been depicted in numerous movies, including a mention of the television series In Treatment (2010). There are several flms discussed in this chapter where Freud himself, and other well known analysts, were depicted. We also learned that Freud showed very little interest in the movies of his day and stated in a letter that he did not believe psychoanalytic ideas could be represented by cinema. Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, which starred Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, is described in this chapter as perhaps the most famous of all films about psychoanalysis. Sabbadini spends five pages discussing this film and how this whodunit movie included discussion of dream analysis, anxiety inducing situations, psychopathic devices of amnesia (repression), and guilt complexes. There is also a discussion of how the camera work, light effects, sound track, and editing create the dream-like psychological atmosphere that the director wished to achieve. In the movie Il Postino, Sabbadini justifies that while it is not actively about the psychoanalyst or analysand, the close relationships that gradually develop between Marino, the postman, and Neruda, the poet, shared many features with what normally takes place in our psychoanalytic consulting rooms.

In the chapter about films and prostitution, the author reviews the social complexities surrounding the selling and buying of sexual favors for money. He even considers a common fantasy that there is a close association between prostitution and psychoanalysis. He uses Fellini’s movie, Nights of Cabiria, to discuss the concept of a rescue fantasy. Fetishism and masochism are also analyzed in this chapter in some detail. Catherine Deneuve’s character Severine in Belle de Jour is examined and at one point the author even postulates that the house of prostitution is the metaphoric antithesis of marriage and has the unconscious function of keeping the latter alive and with it the normality it symbolizes.

Chapter three is the longest chapter and discussed fillms about children, which should not be surprising coming from a psychoanalyst who appreciates the importance of early life experiences. The Spirit of the Beehive was an internationally acclaimed film which was described as dealing with innocence, illusions, and isolation. It focuses on two young girls growing up in the Spanish countryside. This movie deals with the fantasy that they have of monsters which occurs after they see the classic horror movie Frankenstein. This certainly can be related to contemporary young women who are constantly bombarded with such horror films. The author examines how the two children’s fantasy world and magical thinking is skillfully explored by this movie movie. The film Germany Year Zero approaches children in a completely different manner. Rosselini visited postwar Germany in 1947 apparently without any story to tell but trying to answer his own troubled question, “The Germans were human beings like everyone else. What could have led them to this disaster?” Sabbadini describes how this film develops the answer to this question from the point of view of children as they find themselves forced by circumstances to behave like adults.

It is only natural that the author progresses to the next chapter and discusses films on adolescents. He tries to put a perspective on child development theory by noting that it is only in the course of the last 30 or so years that a radical shift has taken place in relation to our understanding of adolescence. One of the films which he focuses on in this chapter is Heavenly Creatures where two adolescent girls, when not immersed in their fantasies, would become obsessed with a plan to murder the mother of one of them. This movie is actually based on the diaries of a person in a real life event which took place in New Zealand. Sabbadini describes how the film attempts to show the conflict between adults and adolescent children. The Oedipus complex and “passing phases of homosexuality” are some of the themes analyzed in this movie. Another film discussed in this chapter is City of God which is also based on an actual event that happened in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s and 1970s. It looks at the role of young people in the Brazilian slums and is described as a “part tender Coming of Age film and part Gang-Warfare Epic.” The author uses this film to further expound on Oedipus theory.

Chapter 5 tries to look how the cinema often tackles issues of love. The author notes how films have explored most variations of this theme often throwing new light on the more bizarre and unusual aspects of it rarely considered anywhere else. He also states that psychoanalysis has done likewise focusing more often on the pathological deviant or perverse side of it rather than the so-called normal one. Sabbadini uses A Pornographic Affair and the relationships of the two characters Elle and Lui to study the deeper emotional meaning of their liaison. He discusses psychoanalytic constructs to understand them such as triangular constellations, regressive tendencies, voyeuristic fantasies (of the audience), and the unseen pornographic components of the main characters’ love affair. Sabbadini returns to the concept of the rescue fantasy as he then analyzes the Mexican film, Amores Perros. This movie consists of three stories which he tells us involve transgressive passion and almost intolerable violence as well as profound humanity. He breaks down each story and explains and interprets the fantasies involved. He explains how he feels that there is a universal fantasy and an important emotional complex both in the conscious and unconscious and that it is often related to primary narcissism.

In the final chapter titled “Watching Voyeurs, Films on Scopophilia” perhaps the most interesting chapter in the book. Sabbadini recognizes the cinema goer or film lover as a voyeur and he quotes Freud stating that the scopophilia drive is autoerotic. Therefore the movie-going experience is a source of both voyeurism and exhibitionism. By bringing the viewers into the equation, he is in a sense recognizing one of the analyst’s most powerful instruments and that is a recognition and utilization of our countertransference. One of the examples that he uses is Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In this film, through one of the main characters played by James Stewart, we watch through his rear window, what goes on in an apartment house opposite his home. Sabbadini discusses that what we see through the voyeur’s eye is a projection of our own desires. He also describes this movie as a dream. He goes on to use Freud’s essays on the theory of sexuality to analyze the movie and also brings in the witch hunts of the McCarthy era which were occurring when the film was made and he believed may have influenced it. There is no shortage of films for Sabbadini to use to further explore this topic. He analyzes the film Peeping Tom which allows him to discuss an array of different forms of deviant sexuality, psychopathology, scopophilia, obsessions with pornography, and sadism, not to mention a further description of the presence of a deep depression underlying everything else.

I believe that the real value of this book will be as a textbook for the study of the cinema from a psychoanalytic point of view. A group of psychoanalytically minded people could choose one of the films mentioned in this book for each group discussion and view it individually or together prior to a discussion of it. They could consider the observations and the thoughts of Sabbadini as well as their own reactions and interpretations of the film viewed. One person could lead the discussion of each film. Since most members of such a group would likely not have previously seen most of these films, this would enable them to now view them and participate in a study of them. I am sure these films are readily available on Netflix.

A second group that may want to use this book as a guide to understanding the films discussed in it might be film students or people who enjoy classic films. Assuming that most of these people who join such a discussion group would not be psychoanalytically trained, the leader or guide for such a discussion group could be a psychoanalyst who is skilled at explaining these concepts as they apply to this film, to a lay audience. The students in such a class would already have a keen interest in how movies convey psychological issues and would value seeing this film again (or for the first time) and would most likely be very receptive to having the meaning put in a psychodynamic and psychoanalytic context. Once again this book would be a marvelous textbook for the leader and the group to use after they have seen the film under discussion.

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