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© Bella Stander

book reviews

Mockingbird Years:
A Life In and Out of Therapy
by Emily Fox Gordon
(Basic Books)

July/August 2000

by Bella Stander

Far from indulging in the usual whine-and-tell autobiography, essayist Gordon uses the experiences of her troubled youth to launch an insightful meditation on the process of psychotherapy. Although she sees the humor in her 11-year-old self silently fidgeting on a couch during classic Freudian analysis, Gordon is dismayed by "a culture that has become saturated with therapy; in a world that has become a hospital" and scornful of the pampered protesters whose "rancorous self-pity…has been the emotional legacy of the 1960s." Packed off by her parents to a posh New England sanitarium in her late teens, Gordon went downhill fast until she became a patient of the late maverick therapist Leslie Farber. By engaging her in rational dialogue (influenced by the writings of Martin Buber), Farber demonstrated "how talk is to be treated not as a means to a therapeutic end but as the central source of moral meaning itself." Not a bad lesson for a writer to learn, then or now.

© 2000 Bella Stander

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