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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Work
This is a terrific book. Castle is funny, perceptive, self-aware and a superb story teller. Her honesty is bracing in the way that the candor of all the great self-examiners--Montaigne through Proust and beyond--is bracing. She has guts. (I don't think it's about masochism, as some fellow reviewers seem to suggest. It's about honesty.)
The long concluding piece...
Published on June 6, 2010 by A Reader

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28 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Desperately Seeking....Approbation
Terry Castle's latest book pulls together a collection of her essays, including her left-handed posthumous tribute to Susan Sontag, "Desperately Seeking Susan" (2005) and her novella "The Professor," an auto-therapeutic account of a brief grad school affair-gone-bad that Castle has clearly been stewing about for the past four decades. In the age of Facebook confessionals...
Published on March 2, 2010 by AceReporter


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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Work, June 6, 2010
By 
A Reader (Central Virginia) - See all my reviews
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This is a terrific book. Castle is funny, perceptive, self-aware and a superb story teller. Her honesty is bracing in the way that the candor of all the great self-examiners--Montaigne through Proust and beyond--is bracing. She has guts. (I don't think it's about masochism, as some fellow reviewers seem to suggest. It's about honesty.)
The long concluding piece on the professor / lover is impossible to put down. And there are three essays here that may last as long as smart, literate essays are read (however long that will be): the piece on the jazz great Art Pepper, the one on Castle and Sontag, and (perhaps) best of them all, the one about TC and her mother off rambling, shopping, squabbling, and connecting in Santa Fe. This isn't just a book for profs--it's a book for people who value excellent prose and remarkable narrative powers.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shorter pieces win out in this collection, July 30, 2010
By 
jessbcuz (Northern California) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I finished this book is a flurry, reading it for hours at a time during a short beach vacation with my family. Now, this wouldn't have been my obvious choice for a beach read (even for me, a wanna-be academic), but it was engrossing, addictive, and titillating in all the ways a good beach read should be.

As others have pointed out, Castle is honest and she doesn't soften the edges much on anyone (even herself or her current partner), but she is also gracious. In her essay on Sontag, although she spends much of the time sketching a character you're not sure you'd want to meet, she ends with a sincere appreciation for Sontag's contribution to 20th century feminism.

I have to admit, though, that I enjoyed the first re-published essays more than the longer one on the Professor. In the shorter pieces, I was thrilled by her ability to weave separate threads into one coherent piece, showing connections where you thought there couldn't be one. Her piece on the Professor worked with the same idea, but meandered here and there, trying to scoop up all of her early academia and sexual exploration/experience in to one cohesive narrative anchored by her experience with the Professor. For me, this was too much; I felt bogged down with too much detail, and almost lost interest half way through this piece (although I was glad I pushed on as it found its momentum again quite soon). I appreciated the succinctness of her other pieces, and that, I think, was lost in this piece.

Yes, this is written by an academic, and there is no way around this. It infiltrates every page because that is who she is, and she is writing honestly and openly. It won't be everyone's idea of a good beach read, but, I have to say, I kind of like this kind of academic and can't wait to find more written by her. I'm still shaking my head wondering how I hadn't heard of her before finding this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘The Professor’ by Terry Castle, December 3, 2013
Interesting fact: when it was first published in hardcover, Terry Castle’s The Professor: A Sentimental Education was called The Professor and Other Writings.

The paperback title alludes obviously to Flaubert’s novel, but it also suggests Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey, which Castle mentions, and Lynn Barber’s An Education, which was made into an Academy Award-nominated film. And much like An Education, the title essay of The Professor recounts Castle’s own coming-of-age as she falls for an older woman.
But if all this sounds terribly academic, fear not: Castle’s essays straddle the genre between academic and personal—which makes sense, since Castle’s academic work (The Apparitional Lesbian, The Literature of Lesbianism) has always been rooted in the personal.

On the personal side, Castle explores her relationships—not only to The Professor, but also her exes, her mother and stepfather, and her stalwart partner, Blakely. She plumbs these depths with a painful honesty, never pulling her punches when it comes to the uglier aspects of these connections. In “My Heroin Christmas,” for instance, she examines the damage her sullen and brutal step-brother had on her already-fragile family.

On the academic side, Castle questions and draws connections. Never content to accept pat explanations or psychologizing, Castle surveys her own obsessions, from home-décor magazines to Art Pepper’s jazz. Her interest in historical sites of the First World War (“Courage, Mon Amie”) becomes an opportunity to examine the literature of that era.

But in hybridizing the genre, she fuses these traditions together. Something as seemingly banal as collecting cheesy rubber stamps (“Travels with My Mother”) becomes, to Castle, an exploration of her relationship with her mother, as she investigates the roots of her and her mother’s aesthetic preferences.

What really makes these essays exemplary, however, is Castle’s humor. She avoids “look at me” outrageousness, but is instead self-effacing and -critical. So while she can describe her lesbian cousin Bridget and her partner as “a butch version of Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” she turns the focus on herself too, imagining a Belgian museum-keeper saying of her, “How yoo zhay in Inghlissh? Who arrhh zeeez two fhucking dykes?”

When she’s not poking fun of herself, Castle delivers her jokes with fierce trenchancy. Even her off-handed descriptions carry weight: her baby dachshund is “as slutty and insouciant as Private Lyndie England”—she of Abu Ghraib infamy.

Castle holds fast to the belief that for writing to succeed “you have to stop trying to disguise who you are. The veils and pretenses of everyday life won’t work; a certain minimum truth-to-self is required.” Thus, when Castle lampoons mid-70s lesbian folk singer Alix Dobkin, she does it with full knowledge that the music indeed, played a critical part in the formation of her own identity. “Who was I to make fun of Alix Dobkin?” Castle wonders. “Hadn’t I been right in there with Alix from the start?”

“I pride myself on… being able to put my thought into words,” Castle admits. “It’s one of the genteel ways I like to stomp on people.”

But despite that admission, Castle is more apt to stomp on herself than others. Even as she dishes dirt on Susan Sontag in “Desperately Seeking Susan,” she stops to reflect on the actual influence that Sontag had on her life. “Just about every book, every picture, every object in my living room, for example,” Castle writes, “has been placed there strategically in hope of capturing her attention, of pleasing her mind and heart, of winning her love, esteem, intellectual respect, etc., etc.” In its way, her relationship with Susan Sontag becomes as much an exploration of desire as “The Professor.”

And it is exactly this kind of sense of intellectual play that allows Castle both to be open-minded but open-hearted.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Desperately Seeking Susan" is worth the price of the whole book, October 15, 2011
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This review is from: The Professor and Other Writings (Hardcover)
I agree with some of the reviewers who have preferred the shorter pieces here to the long title memoir, though not one of Castle's essays is without interest. But "Desperately Seeking Susan" is a small masterpiece -- Sontag as "a great comic character," i.e., a comic monster, comes alive as she never does in the more reverential treatments of her by other writers. Castle doesn't spare herself, either; her deadpan descriptions of her humiliation at an art-world dinner party, and of her abject longing for Sontag's approval and friendship, are rich in humor and full of rueful insight. Likewise her descriptions of her crazy stepbrother. Much of this book stands up well to rereading, which always seems like the truest test of a book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read Terry Castle, May 10, 2014
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There is a time factor in my review - I'm not fast reader, but reading terry Castle is not a hard task - if one likes to consider and think things over then this is the book that meets those requirements.If one happens to be a woman, read it!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars poignant, brilliant honesty from Terry Castle, January 17, 2011
By 
Vivien (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
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Terry Castle has a rare gift of stripping away the posturing and pretension that mars so much writing today. The clean, pure prose left behind grants the reader a rare picture of a person being honest with herself and where she came from. Some readers have had issue with Castle's clarity and self-criticism, but this is what makes Castle so fun to read. She's quite self-critical, posturing, and naive at times-- but she knows it, makes fun of herself, and emerges as a delightful, intelligent, striving, flawed person. The entire book felt bracing to read, with amazing timing and descriptions. This was my first time reading Castle, and after reading this work, I would read anything she writes. The writing feels crisp, refreshing, and sharp; it keeps the reader aware and is amazingly pleasurable to read. Castle is clear-eyed, and her writing is complex but enjoyable.

It should also be noted that the book is terrifically funny. I laughed out loud reading each essay. This was the only book I took with me on a Christmas holiday, and I kept laughing out loud in the airport and in the plane. Castle's tone reminds me of conversations I might have with my favorite friends- it's wry, witty, honest. In short, Castle's not too pretentious to be honest or make fun of herself in the interest of analyzing the world and her place in it.
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17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars entertaining, January 22, 2010
"Courage, Mon Amie". Ms. Castle discusses her quest to find the grave of her Great Uncle Lewis Newton Braddock, who died in combat on the continent during WWI.

"My Heroin Christmas". Following a holiday at home, Ms. Castle muses about moms, step siblings, and heroine and other addictions, especially to the work of Art Pepper.

"Desperately Seeking Susan". The author pays homage to her love-hate friendship with Susan Sontag.

"Home Alone". There is no place like home at least that is the mantra of interior designer magazines that have become a favorite of Ms. Castle as she ponders what will happen to the contents of her interior designed abode when she passes on January 28, 2038 especially the bed linen.

"Travels with My Mother." Writing about complicated relationships, Ms. Castle describes hers with her mom as the oddest she has ever had while also trekking together through the inspirational work of artist Agnes Martin.

"The Professor". As a graduate student, Ms. Castle had a short affair with a female professor that still resonates in her mind as perhaps one of her key moments as she began to understand others have needs, desires and feelings too.

This collection of autobiography commentaries and essays are intelligent, amusing often self-deprecating and entertaining as Terry Castle dives deeply into relationships that impacted her journey so far. All six entries are witty and well written as each rips asunder a piece of Ms. Castle's soul for others to admire her courage for allowing us to see so deeply and emulate her open honesty. This is an enjoyable compilation except for me to witness the oracle stating January 28, 2038 means being a coherent octogenarian when many say I am an incoherent fiftyish.

Harriet Klausner
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lightly-worn learning, perfect prose and self-deprecating warmth, April 21, 2013
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Simon G Dagut (Johannesburg, ZA) - See all my reviews
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Truly great. Each essay is full of immediately and permanently memorable stuff. Also often very funny. Better read and more sympathetic than Clive James (which is hard) and at least his equal as a stylist (which I would have thought impossible.)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth is out there, August 9, 2012
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Writers are entitled to their own narrative but not to their own facts. "The Professor" essay elides some inconvenient facts.
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28 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Desperately Seeking....Approbation, March 2, 2010
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Terry Castle's latest book pulls together a collection of her essays, including her left-handed posthumous tribute to Susan Sontag, "Desperately Seeking Susan" (2005) and her novella "The Professor," an auto-therapeutic account of a brief grad school affair-gone-bad that Castle has clearly been stewing about for the past four decades. In the age of Facebook confessionals and ceaseless Twitter updates on the minutiae of others' lives, some readers will no doubt be charmed, or titillated, by Castle's compulsion to make public the gory details of her private psychodramas. The two essays trace a revealingly singular dynamic. "T-Ball" (Castle's pet name for herself) plays the socially inept, insecure academic sycophant, anxious for the love and approbation of a larger-than-life intellectual Alpha Bitch (Sontag, the Professor). Her boundless needs unmet, T-Ball wreaks vengeance, using her poison pen to craft caustic caricatures of her erstwhile love objects, with any real or imagined rivals for their attention dismissed as "freakish," "bitchy," "stupid," or "mean." (Castle whines to her friends that Sontag was "weally weally mean.") We learn (because T-Ball is compelled to tell all) that her psychiatrist predicted that Castle would follow in the footsteps of that Big Meanie, the egocentric, vindictive professor for whom Terry was just one more notch on the belt. In one sense, these essays deliver on that prediction, revealing Castle not as a consistently first-rate literary essayist, but, at least in the case of these two essays, as a writer of mean-spirited and self-absorbed vendettas.
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The Professor and Other Writings
The Professor and Other Writings by Terry Castle (Hardcover - January 19, 2010)
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