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Bob Fancher (United States)

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Side By Side
Side By Side
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2.0 out of 5 stars Too sad--Itzhak just can't swing, Oct. 28 2003
This review is from: Side By Side (Audio CD)
Maybe if you don't much know about, or don't like, jazz you might like this album. Otherwise not.
Now, I love Perlman. I love Peterson. But this collaboration just doesn't work.
I can't say I wasn't suspicious even before hearing it. From time to time, classical musicians seem to feel the need to venture into some form of popular music, and nearly always it's a disaster. The idioms have such different styles and standards. Classical music's particular notions of precision, and of submerging the ego of the performer into the form of the work, rarely lend themselves to pop music.
And so it is here. Apparently someone told Perlman that in jazz you can bend notes and slide up to them instead of hitting them dead-on. That's fine. But someone should have explained that jazz has to swing--the time signature isn't a device to govern tempo so much as a pointer toward the rhythm that has to animate the music. That's to say, in jazz, the rhythm shows through. You play with it and around it, but you can't swing if you're unable to let the rhythm shine.
A few times Perlman almost gets into it. Overall, though, the classical insistence on a seamless performance hides the hard, jazz-essential bones of rhythm. He is altogether too precise--except, of couse, for sort of slurring notes sometimes. That's a poor imitation of the disciplined freedom essential to jazz.
Too sad.

Health and Suffering in America
Health and Suffering in America
by Robert T. Fancher
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reprint of "Cultures of Healing", Oct. 9 2003
This is a reprint of my earlier book, "Cultures of Healing," with a new introduction. Here are excerpts from reviews for the earlier edition:
. . a landmark book . . . finely reasoned and far-ranging . . .
The Library Journal
These analyses are both thorough and penetrating. . . . The appendix, `Implications for Choosing or Changing a Therapist,' is superb and would make this book worthwhile in and of itself.
Richard Lamb, Professor of Psychiatry, USC,
in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical association)
It is hard to imagine an interested reader who would not want to argue furiously over one point or another. Nonetheless, it is equally hard to imagine the reader who wouldn't consider Mr. Fancher a worthy and engaging opponent.
The New York Times Book Review
. . . expert dissection of American psychiatry and psychotherapy . . . masterly analysis of the pretensions and paradoxes of the various schools of psychotherapy.
The New Scientist (U.K.)
. . . a stimulating and controversial book . . .
Anthony Storr in Nature
. . . combines innovation, insight, and usefulness . . .
Journal of Religion and Health
. . . a major step toward clarification of the persistent, murky and wide-ranging issues that bedevil psychotherapeutic theory and practice. . . . Highly recommended.
Jerome D. Frank, Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins,
in The Journal of Nervous and Emotional Diseases
This book should be read and reflected on by all who have a serious interest in the present state of mental health care.
Elliot Valenstein, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Michigan

The Evolution Of Desire - Revised Edition 4
The Evolution Of Desire - Revised Edition 4
by David M. Buss
Edition: Paperback
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful but misleading, Oct. 5 2003
I teach evolutionary psychology in college, organizing my classes around the "logic of inquiry." I use this book to illustrate cross-cultural investigation, including the pragmatic difficulties of getting good data from massive studies. For that purpose, the book has its uses.
However, unless you are a critical, already-knowledgeable reader, this book may not be a good choice. The book exemplifies neither the state of the art nor a model of how to think soundly about the questions.
Buss's hypotheses tend to be very vague. Indeed, he often says things like, "Evolutionary psychology explains this constellation of traits," as if there were some one hypothesis held by all evolutionary psychologists. He rarely, if ever, presents alternative hypotheses from within evolutionary studies.
He presents little, if any, contradictory or complicating data, never shows what would be involved in falsifying his hypotheses, and never shows why his theory is better supported than others' views of evolution. You get no sense from this book of the vigorous, usually exciting debates on mating *within* evolutionary circles.
You get litle or no sense from this book that problems of sexual adaptivity do not occur alone. You would never know that for humans, copulation has less to do with reproduction than in nearly any other species-and that this complicates immensely understanding our evolved mating habits.
You would never know that across the animal kingdom problems of mate selection depend heavily on what we eat and how we attain it. You would never know that across the animal kingdom mating habits depend on social structure. You get no sense that evolutionary psychology must grapple with the difficult questions of how other essential-and extremely odd-characteristics of human life set limits or biases on mating. In general, you would think from reading Buss that mating has exclusively to do with reproduction or survival of offspring.
Indeed, if the logic of Buss's inquiry were correct, there would be no reason for species to differ sexually. He presents his arguments as if human mating patterns follow directly from the differential investments of males and females. But that difference exists in all species! Why, then, do species differ so? Buss doesn't even let you know (if he has even recognized) that this is a fundamental question.
You would never know from reading Buss the commonplace that motivation need not resemble function. That is, a behavior (or traits) may be pursued for motives that have nothing to do with why it is reproductively advantageous. For purpose of natural selection, why an organism prefers a behavior is of no moment. Though he obviously knows this, and mentions it in passing a couple of places, he writes as if the function were the cause of the behavior. In many, if not most, cases, we are caused to do something for reasons-e.g., how much fun it is-that have nothing to do with why it is naturally selected. This complicates understanding what's selected and why--especially since motivational systems have evolutionary and cultural histories of their own.
As others have noted, Buss's original work relies altogether too heavily on self-reports and "what if" questionnaires.
Now, we know fairly well (though Buss never tells you) that self-reports tend to reflect both cultural norms and a bias toward presenting one's self favorably (even, oddly enough, in anonymous questionnaires.) We can improve and cross-check self-reports, but the methods are cumbersome (requiring a great deal of time with each subject, generating massive amounts of data, and requiring extremely powerful statistical analyses) and expensive. This book gives little evidence that much of Buss's data has been appropriately cross-checked. And in fact, other researchers have shown that even with some of the same populations as Buss studied, more extensive testing shows results very different from Buss's.
However, we cannot cross-check answers to hypotheticals! For instance, a question like, "How many sexual partners would you have in the next year, if you could?" cannot possibly be checked for accuracy.
However, you can do things like correlating answers to that question with other variables. But it is not at all clear that Buss, suffering from a very simple-minded theory to guide his research, has tested for and analyzed the right variables. For instance, some researchers have shown that men suffering ambivalence and anxiety about sex tend to offer inflated numbers on questions like that-and that when data is analyzed controlling for psychopathology, men and women differ on the question far less than Buss claims.
Similarly, you'd never know from Buss the difficulties of identifying which of our traits are selected, and whether they are naturally or sexually selected. Generally, you need to know what to explain before you start explaining it.
Buss's writing style misleads, too. Though he does not overtly misrepresent his data, he places far more emphasis on ways that men and women disagree than agree, even though in fact his data show that the range of agreement vastly exceeds disagreement-and remains equally stable over time.
Generally, I think this book reflects more energy and ambition than insight and imagination. Buss's data matter, precisely because they cover so many subjects in so many locations. But the book also shows the danger of collecting massive amounts of data without an adequate theory to guide what you study.
The reason I structure my classes as I do is that, in fact, nobody knows yet just which elements of human life are accurately explained as naturally selected (or why or when), sexually selected (or why or when), cultural, geographical, and so forth. I emphasize to my students that these questions matter deeply (and why), that we know the standard social science model to be false, and that we are just beginning to develop a reliable science of human evolution. I want my students to be able to participate in the emerging inquiries, to know how to think correctly about data and about alternate candidates to explain the data.
To read Buss, you would think my design is all wrong-you'd think that the data are great, the answers are settled for all but the muddle-headed and stubborn, and that there are no alternative explanations. And if, having read Buss, you thought those things, you would be wrong.
That's another reason I use this book. It shows how much of what passes for truth needs much more scrutiny, proving my point that understanding the logic of inquiry matters most.

Good Sex (PB)
Good Sex (PB)
by Raymond A. Belliotti
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.08
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2.0 out of 5 stars More earnest than wise, more well-intended than informative, Oct. 1 2003
This review is from: Good Sex (PB) (Paperback)
Balanced, comprehensive attempts to understand sexual ethics seem to be pretty rare--in seeking material to use in teaching an advanced ethics class, I've had difficulty finding non-polemical, judicious writings to assign. Since Belliotti wrote a couple of nice, widely-reprinted essays, I thought this book might provide what I sought.
But what a disappointment! Though Belliotti takes a wider view than most and evolves a framework nicely balanced as far as it goes, the apparent incomprehension pervading the book will discredit it with well-informed readers.
Belliotti presents much of his argument in his adverbs--and that means he doesn't bother to argue for them in a logical, evidence-based way. For instance, he tells us that Greek culture "unnecessarily and unwisely" created a "war between mind and body." He offers the reader no account of why the Greeks in question thought their dualism both wise and necessary, though, so he offers no reason to believe them wrong. Dualism *is* mistaken, but it's not clear Belliottti knows why. If he even understands the weighty and careful considerations behind Greek dualism, he does not let the reader in on them.
Similarly, Belliotti shows, shall we say, a less-than-encyclopedic knowledge of the extensive science of sexuality! Indeed, for a fellow who claims that he had to write a book to embrace the whole of his thinking, Belliotti seems remarkably poorly informed about (a) the history and science of sexuality and (b) how natural facts about sexuality have related to culture's efforts to give viable form to sexual life.
To read this book, you'd think that bad ideas and poor social structure, not real, practically problematic proclivities of sexual creatures, create ethical difficulties. (This may also betray one reason that Belliotti shows no grasp of dualism. Our bodies and their ineradicable passions cause far more ethical quandaries for far more people than all the ideas of all the philosophers in history put together.)
While the bearing of science on ethics is complicated, you would think Belliotti might have bothered to understand the real forces behind various moral inclinations. Any realistic ethics must be informed by the discernable facts about the area of behavior upon which it presumes to advise! But he doesn't even try. For instance, he says that he "suspect[s]" that a "thorough canvassing of anthropological and sociological literature" would show societies in which sex is no different from any commodity exchange. No need to "suspect"--if he cared, he could look. (By the way, his suspicion is just wrong. There are no such known societies.)
Toward the end of the book, Belliotti either gets lazy or unimaginative. At several points, he tells us this or that ethical view is unacceptable because "we could imagine a situation in which" harm was done. But he doesn't bother to present us with such situations. This seems to me words masquerading as thoughts. In several instances, neither my students nor I could come up with situations he tells us we could imagine.
It should be noted, too, that the writing--though grammatically and structurally correct--is just awful. Amateurish, leaden, ponderous, without color or snap. Such dull writing about such an incendiary subject presents a curious paradox.
All that being said, it's a shame that this book isn't any better. Belliotti seems to aim at balanced judgment, and he does better than most at considering many different perspectives. I think his conclusions largely correct, and students and others could do far worse than letting his "five tier" framework inform their ethical thinking.
Belliotti should have hired a good collaborator. He might, then, have produced a work of major influence.
I ended up adopting this book as a textbook for my class, simply because I couldn't find anything more suitable. I won't do it again, though.
I had assumed that since I would fill in the important things that Belliotti left out, I could use this book profitably. But my students found the book so laughably pompous, ponderous, and priggish (though apparently the author has some self-image at odds with the manifest psychology of his writing voice), that I am just embarrassed to have chosen it.

The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
by Jared M. Diamond
Edition: Paperback
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Halfway best, Sept. 4 2003
Since I teach evolutionary psychology in college, I try to keep up with "popular" expositions of human evolution--both because my (better) students will have read them and because some of them make for good teaching tools. The first ten chapters of this book rank, in my opinion, as probably the best single account of what we really do and do not know about human evolution.
In these first ten chapters, Diamond gives us dispassionate surveys of dominant theories and available evidence. Here, it's not unusual for him to say something like, Here are the six dominant theories, here is the evidence that shows why four of them don't deserve serious consideation anymore in spite of their emotional or political appeal, and here are the relative scientific merits of the remainder. In an arena beset by vicious ad hominem attacks and passionate ideological presentations of unproven theories, Diamond--in these first ten chapters--offers the student more concerned with truth than ideology a lovely account.
Among the important points he makes in these first ten chapters: Our genetic propensities toward cooperation, care for no-longer-procreative elders, and (in the case of women) outliving reproductive capacity set the stage for the evolution of the human brain. Genes may be "selfish," but our genes' inclining us toward non-egoistic ways of life lie at the foundation of being human at all. This is a crucial point, consistent with the ethical views and habits of all civilizations other than those that foster "social Darwinism." That our humanity depends on the falsity of "social Darwinism" cannot be emphasized too greatly. Science supports the kind of other-oriented, community concern that all ethics, through all of human history--unlike allegedly "enlightened" egoism--codifies. (See also the wonderful anthology, "The Evolutionary Origins of Morality," LeonardD. Katz, editor.)
Beginning in chapter eleven, the book becomes progressively more speculative, more of a presentation of Diamond's own theories, some about things outside his area of professional expertise--e.g., the effects of continental differences in flora, fauna, and climate on differential developments of civilizations. Here, we lose the critical comparative attitude of the first ten chapters. If you think carefully, you finish each of these latter chapters with a lot of, "Yes, but . . . " questions. Thus, in the first ten chapters, you rightly come away with confidence that you've acquired a fair understanding of the state-of-the-art in evolutionary studies. In the latter chapters, that simply isn't so.
I agree with most of the political and ideological principles underlying Diamnod's speculations, and I appreciate that--unlike many leading "lights" in studies of human evolution--he never resorts to name calling and acting as if those who differ are nefarious fools. But I wish he'd either stopped writing after ten chapters, or made the latter chapters more like the first ten. Each of these latter chapters is intelligent and interesting, and each deserves further condieration; but Diamnond's shift in standards of assessment and style of presentation makes the second half of the book far less authoritative, and therefore makes the book as a whole something one can less enthusiastically recommend--or use in teaching.

Carmen Mcrae Live
Carmen Mcrae Live
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I didn't know Carmen was blue, Aug. 25 2003
This review is from: Carmen Mcrae Live (DVD)
I don't mean "blue" as in sad. I mean that, if this video is to be believed, she has blue skin. Well, sometimes blue, sometimes other weird colors, some never found in nature. That is to say, the fidelity of this video leaves much to be desired. Very, very bad.
Similarly, the sound quality of the recording itself. This is simple stereo--no remastering for Dolby--and nothing especially great as stereo recording goes.
So far as the performance goes, that she flubs the first line of the first song--a song she's surely sung a thousand times--speaks of things to come. This is not an inspired, or even highly engaged, performance. She is in good voice, but she seems distant a fair amount of the time, and often rather wooden. At times, she seems to be phoning it in. Rarely does her true charisma show through.
I found this DVD a great disappointment. I dearly love Carmen McRae--I have more than a dozen of her albums, and one of the most memorable nights of my life included seeing her live at the Blue Note nearly twenty years ago. But this DVD portrays her badly.
I wish I hadn't wasted my money on this. I can't imagine bothering to watch it again.

Norah Jones: Live in New Orleans
Norah Jones: Live in New Orleans
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fetching, Aug. 11 2003
I liked Norah Jones' CD okay, though I thought a number of tracks were weak. I hadn't jumped on the bandwagon, but I have more enthusiasm for her after seeing this DVD, for a simple reason: it makes clear that she's about the music, not about being a "star."
I don't really understand people complaining about her lack of chit chat or her lack of playing to the crowd. I've never heard Bob Dylan or Isaac Stern do a lot of talky-talk in live performance, and neither gets by on personal charisma. (If I want talky-talk, I'll go see a stand-up comic.) Jones joins that tiny group of popular musicians whose concern is mainly music--and in this, she is extraordinary. Her voice, of course, is quite good--but what sets her apart is her inventive, arresting musicianship, which is first rate.
The Dolby 5.1 adds nice dimension.
I thought the drummer was uneven in his playing--very good on up-tempo, but inconsistent on some of the more intimate pieces. The guitarist is quite good, but sometimes sloppy. The bass player didn't miss a lick.
Whether Norah Jones develops into a major presence, or becomes someone who just does the same thing over and over every couple of years remains to be seen. But this debut DVD deserves a wide audience.

Norah Jones: Live in New Orleans
Norah Jones: Live in New Orleans
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fetching, Aug. 11 2003
I liked Norah Jones' CD okay, though I thought the understated sultriness a bit studied, even at times affected. I found myself wondering what she'd sound like if her producer didn't have so much influence.
I hadn't jumped on the bandwagon, then--but I have considerably more enthusiasm for her after seeing this DVD, for a simple reason: it makes clear that she's about the music, not about being a "star." Her performances seem considerably more robust, to me, filled with a more believable personality, than on the over-produced CD. If you pay attention to the performances, rather than looking for a lot of non-musical "engagement" with the audience, I believe you'll get a very clear sense of this artist, as distinct from her studio technicians.
I don't really understand people complaining about her lack of chit chat or her lack of playing to the crowd. I've never heard Bob Dylan or Isaac Stern do a lot of talky-talk in live performance, and neither gets by on personal charisma. (If I want talky-talk, I'll go see a stand-up comic.) Jones joins that tiny group of popular musicians whose concern is mainly music--and in this, she is extraordinary. Her voice, of course, is quite original and very good--but what sets her apart is her inventive, arresting musicianship. Her piano chord voicings are extremely sophisticated--not showy, but exquisite, more like Bill Evans, say, than your local lounge player with fast fingers. I believe it was Monk who said that the secret is knowing which notes not to play--and Norah Jones has already mastered that subtlety.
As for the DVD versus the CD: Besides the more natural, less produced performances, the Dolby 5.1 adds nice dimension. The Artist comes across more as an extremely talented kid a bit befuddled by her success than as the late-adolescent chanteuse of the CD.
I thought the drummer was uneven in his playing--very good on up-tempo, but inconsistent on some of the more intimate pieces. I agree with an earlier reviewer than the drum kit is badly miked, but I think the problems are other than that. This ensemble plays more like a jazz quartet than a rock group, and it was not clear to me that the drummer wouldn't be more at home in the latter.
The guitarist is quite good, and he and the artist played off each other very well, but he was sometimes sloppy.
The bass player didn't miss a lick, and seemed to me the foundation of the group.
Whether Norah Jones develops into a major presence, or becomes someone who--like Sade, say-- just does the same thing over and over every couple of years remains to be seen. But this debut DVD deserves a wide audience.

The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin's Soul
The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin's Soul
by Richard Morris
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary overview, Aug. 1 2003
I recommend this book as background reading for my evolutionary psychology students, since so many of them--like most people, even the well educated--have no idea of what is really going on in research on evolution. I don't think students--or anyone else--should be talking about evolutionary psychology unless they understand the state-of-the-art in the sciences of evolution.
Outside of science, people seem to think the "big question" is whether evolution is a fact. The cognoscenti pride themselves on knowing that it is, looking down upon religious fideists of various sorts who claim otherwise. And vice versa.
Within science, though, that question does not even appear. That evolution is a set of facts to be explained, not a hypothesis up for grabs, was settled within science a century ago.
For real scientists, the real debates--the real efforts to understand reality--take place over very different questions, and the various research programs differ very significantly. This book is a nice overview of some of the leading issues.
If you are under the illusion that the debate is about whether evolution takes place, you will find this book kind of ho-hum. But thinking that makes about as much sense as being ho-hum about Newton vs. Einstein. That would be like thinking, "Newton and Einstein didn't disagree on whether gravity exists, so this is just infighting among people who differ only in emphasis."
In fact, Newton v. Einstein matters a great deal--as do the controversies explained in this book. Just as Einstein's discoveries made possible many developments we would never even have been able to conceive within Newtonian physics, so the eventual truths uncovered by the various competing research programs in evolution will determine a great deal about our ability to understand and shape our lives.
Scientists, of course, are human, and they can want for themselves all sorts of things besides scientific truth, including fame, influence, and the financial rewards of being popular celebrities. (Science journals do not pay for articles. Pop venues do. Science books rarely make much money. Lots of pop writing on science does.) Sadly, too many of the scientists, when they turn to writing for popular audiences, grossly misrepresent science, and they sometimes just get mean. Within the popular press--even the highly respectable sanctums of the intelligentsia, like The New York Review of Books--writers need not meet elementary rules of scientific writing. Routinely, they don't. They exaggerate their own claims, minimize the evidence for the claims of others, and claim to have proven grand things that every real scientist in the world knows they haven't--and that they don't even claim themselves in their scientific writing! And they do not necessarily play fair with their opponents. In the evolution debates, they have basically reduced themselves to insulting each others mothers.
Richard Morris does a nice job of avoiding such scientifically useless vituperation, helping us see where the real issues lie and what makes each possibility promising.
Of course, anyone who wants can complain about Morris's principles of selection. Personally, I wish he had not overlooked increased scientific interest in sexual selection, especially since there is evidence to show that the leading way of reconciling it with natural selection is less than clearly true. But that's really neither here nor thre. The important thing is that he has made clear what real research within science is about.
If you are a lay person who wants a fair overview of current issues involved in our efforts to understand human life, this is a very helpful accomplishment.
If, though, you have no interest in understanding how life works, just an interest in priding yourself on already accepting evolution, you will find this book boring.
Evolutionary thinking promises to open exhilirating new vistas on our lives. The new areas of research it has opened even in the last twenty years--which are certainly decades away from yielding conclusive results--give us the chance to understand ourselves and our world as never before. For those sciences to do their work, though, they need for all of us to understand why they matter, what they may accomplkish, and what they haven't yet achieved. They need that so we support them and make their work possible.
That being said, it follows that Morris has made a contribution to the future of our species--insofar as this book helps people see beyond the cant and mutual ill-will that fills public debate, to understand that evolution is a set of sciences, not a settled body of knowledge, from which we can eventually learn immense amounts.

Conditions Of Love
Conditions Of Love
by John Armstrong
Edition: Hardcover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably wise, July 24 2003
This review is from: Conditions Of Love (Hardcover)
The critic from "Publishers Weekly" quoted above must have been having a bad day when he or she read this book. Generally, that review manages to miss the point. Armstrong doesn't "critique" Socrates or Stendahl, etc.; he uses them to interrogate our experience of love and finds the kernel of truth they each captured, while also synthesizing these (and many other) perspectives into a coherent picture. There is nothing murky here, and certainly no failure to think through the positions. I'm a pretty fierce critic myself, and the clarity and coherence of this book seem to me to pass muster.
I picked this up while canvassing possible resources for my students in an advanced applied ethics course, hoping it would help with a section on sexuality. For that, it isn't to the point-that's not really the topic of the book. But I'm glad I found it, and I'll be recommending it to students and friends alike as a source of wisdom about love.
The question Armstrong sets himself is, What makes it possible for people to love each other, over the long haul, in satisfying ways? "Falling in love" rarely lasts, as we all know-the heat of early romance fades when faced with broader realities. Armstrong points out that modeling love on this transient incandescence means we simply cannot understand how to love-when we try to see enduring love as some sort of dilute form of romantic intoxication, we are trying to make it something it is not.
I don't know of another book that casts such a broad net in considering love. Armstrong understands, as almost no contemporary psychologists or therapists do, the history of human efforts to understand love. Thus, he includes in his thinking experiences, problems, and insights that escape the blinkered views of contemporary ideologies. A fair number of Greeks, for instance, had some interesting thoughts about love and its place in individual lives and in human relationships. As I've already mentioned, Armstrong sets these many experiences and insights side-by-side, uses them to interrogate our experience, and takes from each some guidance on his question. He thus unites his broad understanding of our history with contemporary psychology and sociobiology to produce a remarkably complex, nuanced account.
Yet the writing is clear, simple, and engaging. To synthesize so much diverse, often-subtle material into a complex and sophisticated account, then to write in a style that seems effortless-quite an accomplishment.
This could have been called "Love's Little Instruction Book for the Highly Intelligent." Devoid of smarm, rich in compassion, and informed by the best that has been thought or said on the subject across human history-well, it won't be jumping off the racks of the check-out line a Wally World, but it ought to have a honored place on the shelves of every well-educated person.

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