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Blake's Therapy: A Novel Hardcover – June 5, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Portentously taking its section epigraphs from Calder¢n de la Barca and Dante, Dorfman's latest novel is a slender allegory based on nothing less than the conditions of reality in contemporary capitalist culture. Graham Blake is the owner of Clean Earth, a company that manufactures health foods and nutritional supplements. His ex-wife, Jessica Owens, is a brilliant bio-engineer who has invented many of the pills Clean Earth sells. Blake is at a particularly difficult point in his career. The company is threatened with a takeover by a villainous tycoon, Hank Granger, and the board wants Blake to close down a factory in Philadelphia. To cope with his stress, he puts himself in the hands of Dr. Carl Tolgate, whose psychotherapy owes more to The Truman Show than to Freud. Tolgate arranges things so Blake is able to spy on and covertly control a family that works at his Philadelphia factory. Blake falls in love with the daughter, Roxanna, but his interventions eventually drive her to attempt suicide. In the nick of time, he pierces the barrier between surveillance and real life, only to discover that Roxanna and her family are actors hired by Tolgate. Blake's reaction is to try to find the real family upon which Roxanna's fake family is based. Dorfman's larger point is that compassion subordinated to the drive for maximizing profit is a neutered virtue, but it's a point better conveyed in an essay. Dorfman's characters are wooden, his story veers laughably between clich‚ and implausibility, and his insights into the psychological motivations of CEOs are dubious at best. (May 8)Forecast: Always juggling literary, political and cultural issues he is perhaps best known for How to Read Donald Duck, a defiant political satire Dorfman fumbles here. Those loyal to the causes he espouses will attend readings on his nine-city author tour, but negative reviews will discourage the general reading public. Spanish edition published simultaneously by Seven Stories.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A celebrated activist and intellectual survivor, Dorfman (The Nanny and the Iceberg), who is a native Argentinian and naturalized Chilean now residing in the Unites States, here confronts the implications of global consciousness and the culture of voyeurism. In order to provide his hero with the believable trappings of an entrepreneurial landscape, Dorfman, like an anthropologist stalking bizarre customs and rituals, actually attended sessions of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. The CEO of an international company, 43-year-old protagonist Graham Blake already has a will leaving 80 percent of his fortune to charities that support the homeless, inner-city kids, and rain forest ecology. Married to a geneticist who is herself a candidate for a double Nobel in medicine and chemistry, he is one businessman dedicated to making the world a better place. But when Blake's company takes a nosedive, scumbag Hank Granger mounts a hostile takeover, and Blake takes a tumble as well. His headaches and insomnia lead him to the Corporate Life Therapy Institute, at which point the novel becomes an allegorical thriller. The strange, even "murderous" (as Graham calls them) methods Dr. Tolgate uses to rehabilitate him cause a power struggle between Graham, Tolgate, and the mysterious woman Tolgate assigns to attend him, which jolts Blake back to self-sufficiency. A masterly exploration of reality and dreams, power and identity, this novel will appeal particularly, but not exclusively, to readers of psychological intrigue. Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland, MD
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; A Seven Stories Press 1st ed edition (May 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583220704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583220702
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,244,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Blake's Therapy raises a lot of issues and, in my opinion, leaves a lot of questions unanswered. But it many ways that's OK. At the very least, it will make you think.
I'm giving the book four stars instead of five because I really think the book should have been longer. Dorfman has paced the book quite fast . . . you zip along from one surprise to another. But I would have liked to have had more. I want to know more about the background of the characters, particularly those who act out Blake's whims. I wanted to know more about the company that was giving Blake the "therapy." These are just two examples.
Dorfman offers us many intriguing mysteries, but then doesn't give us the answers.
Despite these criticisms, it's a very good book. Those claiming that Dorfman doesn't understand CEOs are missing the point. Blake, given his interests and the company he created, resembles the kind of person you might find working at Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's, The Body Shop, or Working Assets -- companies that are dually committed to both a profit and progressive political ideals. Blake is believable in that role.
But even then, in the broader sense, if Dorfman isn't offering us a realistic CEO, one has to wonder how morally ambivalent a real CEO would be before they would care about their employees. If Dorfman is offering us an unrealistic vision -- a CEO who cares "too much" perhaps? -- then it makes for a damming commentary, not on Dorfman's work, but on the world we live in. Because overall, Blake is a good guy. He wants to make a profit like the rest of us, but he doesn't want to destroy the planet in the process and he wants to help people at the same time. He feels guilt when he fails at doing these things. One only has to look at Enron to realize that many CEOs aren't like that.
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Format: Paperback
Although Blake's Therapy is a short book it is one that needs pondering over. It is difficult to discern reality and truth among the conflicting narrative voices. The book opens with a lecture from an unnamed therapist who proclaims that we are here to help Graham Blake. What follows is what appears to be the therapy where Blake, a CEO of a huge multinational company is at the verge of a breakdown and must learn to weigh his power over the personal comfort and freedom of his employees. From there things get sketchy: are the people Blake is interacting with real or just actors? Has his therapy ended by the close of the book? The last chapter is a report from our unnamed therapist to Blake's ex-wife but the details here are still fuzzy.

If you enjoy clear cut plots and well defined characters, Blake's Therapy isn't for you. If however you like to be challenged and enjoy stories with multiple realities, then I recommend Blake's Therapy to you. In terms of tone and general themes, the novel reminds me of the Argentine film Hombre mirando al sudeste (1986). If you haven't seen the film, then I recommend a weekend combo of watching the film and reading this book.
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Format: Paperback
A book hadn't disturbed me so much since Nude Men. Dorfman captures the lunacy of the depressed mind with the insight of a prophet. His vantage point is one of unhampered voyeurist... Blake's therapist, which happens to be the unidentified narrator, feels that his patient might benefit from a rather unique treatment in which Blake witnesses the turbulent life of one of his female subordinates through a hidden camera. He has been given the power to dictate the woman's future. There are so many disarming scenes in this novel -- it's like Reality TV for the insane. Even if you've never watched the ubiquitous programs that prowl the cable system, you will be uncontrollably bewildered by this story, for it questions morality and raises various questions regarding today's success-driven society. I read it in two sittings. Do not eat or drink while reading this book -- you don't want to spray coffee over your copy of what may be, to date, the purely and unapoligetically thought-provoking book of the new millenium...
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