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Mockingbird Years: A Life In And Out Of Therapy (edition 2001)
Mockingbird Years: A Life In And Out Of Therapy by Emily Fox Gordon
References to this work on external resources.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0465027288, Paperback)Mockingbird Years is not, perhaps, the ideal book to give to your therapist friends; it is, however, both a wickedly original personal history and a ringing critique of the therapy culture. A Life in and out of Therapy, the subtitle calls it, but as far as the bulk of the book is concerned, that's mostly in. An awkward, difficult, probably learning-disabled child, Emily Fox Gordon was a veteran of five different psychologists by the time she turned 17. She then spent several years of enforced idleness at a Massachusetts psychiatric hospital. But she's no girl interrupted: her stint in the bin was in fact the culmination of several fantasies--better in every way, the adolescent Gordon thought, than its alternative of going to college:
Throughout my years as Dr. G's patient, I felt a guilty and unshakable conviction that I was completely sane and that I had health to squander. Of course, my notion that patients were expected to be crazy was naive, but I had swallowed whole the familiar ideology that connects madness to beauty of spirit.... I loved the notion of myself as saucer-eyed and frail, and I was ashamed of the blunt and caustic person I knew I was. I hoped that if I applied myself, I might evolve toward becoming the fragile and lovable being I so wished to be. I was looking for transformation, not cure. I wasn't interested in being happier but in growing more poignantly, becomingly, meaningfully unhappy.Gordon's book abounds with such paragraphs, in which she combines unflinching self-examination with a prose so precise a clear wind seems to blow through the mind. Her m.o. is alien enough to the confessional spirit of our times that it takes awhile for the point to sink in: Gordon doesn't want to make us love her. Her book is not about acquiring sympathy--she's had plenty of that--and consequently, she's not afraid to be unsympathetic. What she wants from her writing is the same thing she wanted from therapy: not psychological but moral understanding, not a retreat into self but a means of entering into relations with the world.
She found these in her unorthodox relationship with psychologist Leslie Farber, who she followed from the psychiatric hospital to New York City. In conventional terms, there are any number of things wrong with this picture: Gordon basically attached herself to Farber's family, spending hours of each day simply hanging out at his Upper West Side apartment. Even Gordon could see how unhealthy her dependence was, and she broke off their therapy. Nevertheless, the rest of Mockingbird Years is in some sense a mash note to Dr. Farber, the man who by simply being himself--by being her friend--freed her to pursue "the conscious life." These days, she conducts her ongoing inquiry into self and the world through writing, "very much like therapy," Gordon tells us, "except the therapist is absent and I've given up all ambition to get well." By now we are used to the narrative of salvation through therapy; it has become its own genre, a Lives of the Saints for our age. Mockingbird Years is a very different beast indeed. Scathing, witty, and profoundly unsentimental, it will peel the paint right off your psychic walls. --Mary Park
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:22 -0400)
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