From Publishers Weekly
Aspiring to a new genre of "literary self-help," this work by psychoanalyst and Buddhist practitioner Langan requires patience. The first sentence ("People do things for different reasons, though sometimes their reasons are the same") will winnow the impatient, who will dismiss this as pretentious, from those who welcome the prospect of an intensely ruminative book. It's uniquely organized, alternating chapters written as essays on aspects of Buddhism and psychology with italicized vignettes that describe the relationship between a fictional analyst and his patient. Then follows a section of quasi-footnotes—"sources and associations"—that are difficult to correlate with the text because they are marked by asterisks, unnumbered and often woolly ("This play of shifting forms is quite the opposite of the cri de guerre
of the British Victorian poet William Ernest Henley...."). Langan's free-associative writing style is appropriate for a therapy session, but becomes a little idiosyncratic in a book, as though the reader has been handed a first draft. "I can choose to assimilate you. (Resistance is futile.)" could be clever, but such allusive exposition slides past those who don't recognize the slogan of the Borg, the villainous assimilators of Star Trek
. Langan is ambitious, but his literary aspirations sometimes obscure rather than illuminate his meaning. (July)
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About the Author
Robert Langan, PhD, is a Fellow, Training and Supervising Analyst, and Director of the Center for Applied Psychoanalysis at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City, where he maintains a private psychotherapeutic practice. His interest in Buddhism began in college and led to the Peace Corps in Nepal, where he developed a fascination with Tibetan culture. Torn between East and West, he pursued doctoral and post-doctoral training in Western psychology only to find it led him once again, but without conflict, to Buddhism. He is a longtime member of the Jewel Heart sangha and the Insight Meditation Society.
Robert Coles is the author of The Spiritual Life of Children
. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.