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The Schopenhauer Cure


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Having taken on the origins of psychotherapy in the popular When Nietzsche Wept, psychiatrist-novelist Yalom now turns to group therapy and the thinker sometimes known as the "philosopher of pessimism," in this meticulous, occasionally slow-moving book. Julius Hertzfeld, a successful therapist in San Francisco, is shocked by the news that he suffers from terminal cancer. Moved to reassess his life's work, he contacts Philip Slate, whose three years of therapy for sexual addiction Julius describes as an "old-time major-league failure." Philip is now training to be a therapist himself, guided by the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, and he offers to teach Julius about Schopenhauer as a way of helping him deal with his looming death. Julius and Philip strike a deal: Julius will serve as Philip's clinical supervisor, but only if Philip joins the ongoing therapy group Julius leads. To complicate matters further, Pam, a group member, is one of the hundreds of women Philip seduced and then rejected. Yalom often refers to his books as "teaching novels," and his re-creation of a working therapy group is utterly convincing. At the same time, his approach can be overly documentary, as the inner workings of therapy, often repetitious and self-referential, absorb much of the novel's momentum. A parallel account of Schopenhauer's life sheds light on the philosopher's intellectual triumphs and emotional difficulties. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (Jan. 6) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

When group therapist Julius Hertzfeld is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he embarks on a search for meaning in his life. He starts by seeking out former patients in order to gauge whether his therapy has succeeded. He first makes contact with Philip, an arrogant and misanthropic former sex addict who admits that Julius's therapy failed and that he cured himself by reading philosophy, mainly Schopenhauer. Now a philosophical counselor in need of supervision for certification, Philip agrees to participate in Julius's group therapy while teaching Julius the values of Schopenhauer's philosophy for leading a meaningful existence. A series of electrifying events-including the return to Julius's group of a member who was one of Philip's victims-turns both men's lives upside down. Much as he did with Nietzsche's philosophy in When Nietzsche Wept, Yalom here weaves Schopenhauer's life and work into the narrative. Regrettably, one-dimensional characters that simply spout certain philosophical positions and a contrived and unconvincing ending make for tedious reading. However, as a novel of ideas, this book effectively explores loss, sexual desire, and the search for meaning. Recommended for midsize and larger collections and where Yalom's other novels have been popular.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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