email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecoming AnnaBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Biography, it strikes me, is one of the more bizarre genres
of Western literary production. Biography requires the reader to accomplish two
contradictory operations. The reader is asked to believe in the veracity of the
tale, whilst suspending anxieties about how this is achieved. Yet is it really
possible to tell the true story of anothers life, let alone sustain the
grander ambition of psycho-biographys claims to have access to the inner life
of the subjects intentions, motivations and so on? And what happens when
attempting o deal with a life composed of fleeting and limited forays in the
public eye? What is biography aiming at?
Charles Strozier, with his biography of Heinz Kohut, one of
the giants of the American psychoanalytical scene, proffers two sorts of
responses to my quandary. What a biography is the imposition of a narrative
on an inchoate past cannot be separated from what a biography aims at. Namely
to discover, illuminate, and disclose how a significant life came about (p.xii).
Part of this daunting task of reconstructing the private and the public facets
of anothers life is made a little easier for Strozier because Kohut has left
behind a testimony, a collection of jottings of his inner life, in the guise of
a case study titled Mr Z. Unlike other forms of memoir, the case study of Mr
Z promises to offer the knowing biographer unique insights into Kohuts mind.
Yet for all that, troubling questions and objections come to mind. Is Mr Z
really Heinz Kohut? (Mr Z is never identified by name). And if Mr Z really is
Kohut (which Strozier seems fairly sure), are we really witnessing the inner
going-ons of another, or is it yet another version of a self, claiming weight
and legitimacy by employing the impressive sounding vocabulary of
psychoanalytical discourse? In other words is self-analysis possible? Even the
most famous self-analysis of the psychoanalytic movement, that of Sigmund
Freuds, had another playing the crucial role of interlocutor. Who plays
Kohuts Fleiss as it were?
To move past these interminable questions of biography, the
parallel with Freuds self-analysis and Kohuts is more than coincidental. To
bring us back to Stroziers title, this is the story of how one psychoanalyst
is made. Stroziers central thesis is clear enough. Kohut, after several false
starts, becomes a psychoanalyst in more than name when he discovers the courage
and, dare I say it, the humility, to think beyond his master. The master in
question is not Freud per se, but the deadweight of the psychoanalytic
institutions in North American, which had reduced psychoanalysis to a practice
more closely resembling a guild, with its rites of passage and mimetic
transmission of knowledge. Kohut, of course, was a major figure in initially
supporting and continuing this state of affairs in the American institutions.
To find out why this was so, and also the reasons behind Kohut breaking away,
Strozier gives us biography.
Kohut, we discover via Strozier, was a deeply unattractive
character. In fact, a difficulty in reading his biography, without the prism of
genius to sustain me, was having to grapple with a story of a man who
dedicates much of his long life in self-serving and status-seeking enterprises.
For example the Second World War seems for Kohut an event primarily aimed at
thwarting his burgeoning career. Particularly gruelling to take are Kohuts
complaints in regards to the displaced persons camp in Britain, and the
avoidance of national service once Kohut settles in the United States. True, if
Kohut didnt perceive himself as Jewish, it must have been terribly frustrating
to be bureaucratically processed and interned as one, but ones sympathy stretches
only so far, especially when most of Europes Jewry were being marked for
extermination. Strozier momentarily raises the issue of Kohuts war record as
an issue of concern and a marker of a certain character defect. Somehow, Kohut
missed the draft and the war, for which he later gave at least two mutually
But the lies are telling. On certain issues, Kohut, it
seemed, needed to deceive (, p.73-73.) But to deceive whom, and to what ends? Uncle Sam and the war
aims? One would have thought that Kohut, a person with extensive medical
training and who had already directly experienced the racial politics of Nazi
Germany, would have been strongly motivated to become involved. Yet Strozier,
who throws up the idea of Kohuts avoidance, doesnt take this line of
inquiry far enough. What does Strozier think lies at the heart of Kohuts
behaviour? Instead Strozier focuses on the start of Kohuts brilliant and
single-minded career in psychoanalysis at the Chicago Institute.
One is told repeatedly of Kohuts genius, coupled with his
determination and adroitness at playing the political games of psychoanalytic
a detailed and critical analysis of psychoanalytic institutions in North
America, Strozier refers us to Douglas Kirsners excellent book Unfree
But I must confess, I didnt really get a sense of why Kohut was driven by such
a large ambition, whilst retaining such a muted enthusiasm for psychoanalysis.
One gets the impression that psychoanalysis for Kohut is a practice to be
dutifully learned through the enactment of a series of rituals and techniques.
But this is precisely what psychoanalysis is not starting with the imperative
of the analysts own analysis.
Psychoanalysis, at this point in Stroziers narrative (the
1940s), is entering into a position of widespread clinical acceptance within
public institutions, accompanied by respectability and power. One suspects that
if Kohut were plotting his career today, it would be in the hegemonic field of
The low point of Stroziers biography coincides with his
description of a woman with whom Kohut has a relationship. She is described as
possessing high Anglo-Saxon cheekbones (this really is Iain Fleming terrain).
Yet, once past this point, Stroziers narrative steadily builds in interest and
importance. Kohut faces courageously both the death of his overbearing mother
(is there any other type in psycho-biography?), and his own mortality. Strozier
conveys skilfully the parallel between these biographical facts and the sea
change building in Kohuts professional life. Kohuts near pathological demand
to be loved, evidenced in this self-absorbed life of impressing yet conforming,
diminishes, opening (literally) a new chapter in his profession life that
centres on the concepts of self and empathy as the way forward for
psychoanalysis. (See in particular Stroziers account of Kohuts wooing of Anna Freud
in lobbying for the presidency of the International Psychoanalytical
Kohut, of course, does much more than emphasize the self and
empathy with his new orientation. Gone, for example, is the conceptual primacy
of the drives, overtaken by the primacy of self-forms and its selfobjects. This
turn away from Freudian concepts, from the formations of the unconscious to the
psychology of the self, is motivated by an absolutely crucial and key question:
What is the aim of psychoanalysis? Is it simply to reconcile one to the forces
beyond ones control, or should it hold larger ambitions for example, in
regards to its ability to change the course of others lives? This is a question
that needs to be approached beyond the commonplace either/or schema of
pessimism versus optimism, which Strozier characterises Kohuts innovation
vis-à-vis Freud. It is also a question that leads ultimately to a
sometimes-tiresome debate regarding the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis
and how far can one go in not adhering to them and still claim psychoanalysis as
an orientation. Yet ironically it is precisely this moment, when there is a
question mark over Kohuts theoretical fidelity that he seems to finally assume
the full symbolic function of the psychoanalyst.
For Strozier, concerns or questions such ass these are
glossed over in his assertion of Kohut as genius and saviour of the
psychoanalytic movement. The first assertion is carried through the book as an
unwavering article of faith, but from this distance, these claims seem both
overstated and a little silly (evidenced by titles such as The Making of a
Hero for example).
The strength of Stroziers book for me lies less in a
sterile debate over Kohuts status as genius or saviour, and more in Stroziers
rich detail, which captures well the rather strange life and history of an
analyst in North America, when psychoanalysis was king.
© 2002 Craig Smith
Craig Smith co-edited Female Sexuality:
The Early Psychoanalytic Controversies (1999) and is currently
completing his PhD at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.