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Samuels's story takes the shape of an extended journal written for his absentee son. It's a risky form for a novel, both introspective and deliberate, and for the first third of the book its discursive style can be a challenge to read. Kramer is the psychiatrist author of the bestselling Listening to Prozac, and his first novel often proceeds according to the rhythms of nonfiction: light on scene and dialogue, heavy on exposition and allusion. He seems never to have met a book he didn't like, and he's not at all afraid to wear his learning on his sleeve, repeatedly citing Marx, Robbe-Grillet, Sartre, Dickens, Thoreau, and Walter Benjamin. Fortunately, it's all in the service of character, and not quite as intimidating as it sounds.
Ultimately, Samuels has the temperament not of a terrorist but of an artist. He finds Marx inferior to Dickens as a thinker, and describes the bombings as a form of personal expression, reflecting his own quiet fastidiousness and keen sense of the absurd. But what are the moral implications of his actions? We're left to work that one out for ourselves, with not even a crazed manifesto to point us in the right direction: "I have never intended to impose political solutions on my neighbors. I have hoped to say at most, We know the dilemma we are in, the human dilemma." The human dilemma is, of course, the territory of both the psychiatrist and the novelist. And in his first foray into fiction, Kramer asks questions he can't answer and raises issues he won't resolve--a kind of "silent therapy" for a culture that could use some time on the couch. --Mary Park
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
The price of this book was why I ordered it. This is for a generals college class and I did not want to spend a lot of money on the book, so the price was right.Published 15 months ago by Sandra WIttorf
[Originally publshed on goodreads]
I like other, non-fictional books of Kramer's as well, but that had not made me expect good fiction-writing from him, and I approached the... Read more
I enjoyed this book on two levels, the father's deeply intimate expressions of love and hope for his son and the need of Anarchy/expression in our current society. Read morePublished on February 20, 2006 by Brent Sykes
There is something about anti-depressant drugs that brings out the gonzo in novels - Walker Percy had them in the water supply in a Southern town, and the result was a hoot. Read morePublished on May 3, 2002 by Theodore
The concept behind this book suddenly seems quaint--a terrorist who takes care not to kill people. If you can bear the awful irony that this concept presents in a world after... Read morePublished on October 9, 2001 by Ruth Edlund
Simply my favorite book of the summer/fall season. "Spectacular Happiness" is politically alert, and it's also exciting and touching-a great father-son story. Read morePublished on September 7, 2001