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Dr. Freud, a life /

Main Author: Ferris, Paul, 1929-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, 1998
Edition: 1st American ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

Famous for bringing to light the secrets of others' psyches, Freud kept the deep workings of his own mind hidden within an elaborate myth. Ferris penetrates that myth in a biography of rare insight and candor. Careful analysis of Freud's writings and letters (some only recently available) reveals a man of remarkable daring--and of desperate self-contradictions. Thus we see a scientist who falsified data, a therapist who misled patients, a nerve doctor who abused cocaine--and still a man who stunned the world with a psychology that swept away centuries of social convention. Without relying on technical jargon, Ferris explains how Freud opened a new perspective on the inner life. Readers peer into the obscure origins of Freud's revolutionary theories, glimpsing strange ambiguities resolved by later psychologists only by modifying or abandoning key premises. Yet even now that many of his concepts have lost credibility, the tortured personal life of their creator still commands our interest. The full story of that life--detailed in all its passion and complexity--makes this a valuable addition to any library's holdings. --Bryce Christensen

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

When a British edition of Freud's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life appeared in 1914, a London magazine described him as "the Sherlock Holmes of the Mind." Ferris, a Welsh novelist and biographer, approaches his subject as a shaper of 20th-century thinking who has been written about largely by his disciples as well as his rivals. Followers employed obfuscation to camouflage his flaws, while enemies emphasized his failings and the concepts that flunked the test of time, according to Ferris. On his part he sees Freud as a heroic but devious researcher who invented what he could not prove about the riddles of repression and conflict. His biography pauses here and there to reject familiar stories as fables or to label theories that do not hold up as "dangerously speculative." To Ferris, the most unworthy act by the popularizer of the incest motive in human behavior is Freud's psychoanalysis of his daughter, Anna, between 1918 and 1924. Whatever it did for either of themÄand she would become an analyst herselfÄit "extinguished" Anna's "potential for loving a man." Ferris considers her father's psychoanalysis of her a supreme act of selfishness by someone who understood everyone else's contradictions but his own. Photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

A British biographer (Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton), novelist, and journalist, Ferris draws from mostly secondary sources to create a readable‘if not always reliable and hardly original‘portrait of Sigmund Freud. Ferris considers his subject flawed and therefore more real and more interesting than sometimes portrayed; he uses the terms ruthless and devious not to bury Freud "but...to suggest the scale of his endeavor to explain our nature: the end which he saw as justifying the means." One problem is that we don't know whether Ferris thinks the end justifies the means, and often he presents a point of view that may be his or someone else's, but he doesn't specify which. Ferris has a clipped, journalistic prose style and is more at ease with Freud's life than his work. He gives short shrift to ideas when covering Freud's major disputes with Adler, Jung, and Rank. A scant paragraph on Melanie Klein describes her as dogmatic and controversial, with only a hint about what she stood for. More seriously, Ferris misrepresents Freud as intolerant of homosexuals, when, far ahead of his time, Freud favored admitting them to be trained as psychoanalysts. Although the coverage is broad, it is not deep, and the profusion of characters will leave the general reader feeling that less might have been more. Those who want to wade past these shallows may turn to Peter Gay's admiring Freud (LJ 7/88) or Richard Webster's more trenchant, original Why Freud Was Wrong (LJ 8/95). Recommended to round out larger collections on Freud.‘E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.