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On Balance Paperback – Nov 22 2011
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“A refreshing, invigorating experience…Adam Phillips is one of the richest and most rewarding essayists of our time.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Highly pragmatic…Phillips's authority as a writer comes in no small part from his own experience as a highly regarded therapist….Like a priest, he is concerned with damnation and salvation, under the secular names of sickness and cure.” ―Adam Kirsch, The Boston Globe
“Transformative…Phillips can tease out contradictions with extraordinary delicacy….He shows that pleasure and desire are not simple; they can be feared…and used to hide things we should really see.” ―The Guardian (London)
“Gently provocative reading on themes of need and desire…Phillips's ideas are fresh and inventive, casting new light on counterintuitive topics from the psychological importance of punishment to the questionable pursuit of happiness.” ―Financial Times
“A set of beguiling essays…the author provides polished ponderables for all readers.” ―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Adam Phillips is a psychoanalyst and and a visiting professor in the English department at the University of York. He is the author of many acclaimed books, including On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored; Going Sane; and On Kindness (with Barbara Taylor).See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A child psychoanalyst and literary critic, Phillips probes deeply into the human malaise; if you say, What malaise?, this book is not for you. He comes up with the odd remark often, such as, We travel to protect ourselves from the possibility of arriving, or The quest for knowledge would seem to be about dispelling desire: "Tell me who you desire and I will tell you who you are." What humanity as a whole apparently desires however is of a magnitude infinitely greater. On the front page of today's New York Times, seed money of $500,000 is being offered to study what it would take to send humans to another star, a challenge so daunting the study alone could take a hundred years, at which time we will all be dead.
On Balance was my vacation book this year, a kind of ballast against the euphoria, but it would not be the kind of thing I'd want on my private island; I'd want something like a mixture of Zen and Christianity, music above all, and a bottle of wine. I'd leave the great Chinese poets at their rest. May I add how startled I was to read on page 286 how insufficient are all the helps and glories of human civilization, never fully adequate to our needs and desires. "Human nature, without divine redemption, is a disillusionment that cannot be borne." In writing about W H Auden, Phillips says that unredeemed human nature had become unbearable to him. He is not alone in this assessment.
You may also wish to read the fairly positive review in the current New York Review of Books, and may I point out the admiring comment of Judith Shulevitz in her review of All About Love in the August 14 New York Times Book Review: she calls Phillips "an accomplished aphorist who hovers over the pages like an interrupting angel." Lastly, Phillips has a place in the Joys of Secularism, an anthology just published and reviewed by James Wood in the current New Yorker.