CAN LOVE LAST?: The Fate of Romance over Time

Stephen A. Mitchell, Author
Stephen A. Mitchell, Author . Norton $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-393-04184-2
Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-393-32373-3
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When New York University professor and popular psychoanalysis theorist Mitchell died in December 2000, he left behind a robust body of work that made Freudian theories accessible to all. It's not surprising, then, that this postmortem work should have broad appeal. A combination of clinical case studies, psychoanalytical thought and practical advice, Mitchell's riff on the fragility and necessity of romantic love is written with warmth and intelligence. He manages to simplify some of Freud's most complex theories and give them new significance for those who wonder why love is often a battlefield. Real-life examples, taken from his practice, are an invaluable addition. In a section on guilt, for example, he briefly describes how Freud considered the emotion to be "the linchpin of our ascent from the bestial to the civilized," then brings in the work of Viennese-born analyst Melanie Klein and concludes with the story of "Will," whose tendency toward feeling guilty created havoc with his romantic relationships. By mixing the case study method, so common in self-help books, with scholarly insight, Mitchell creates a work on romance that is rich and multilayered, giving the individual stories more weight and the intellectual commentary more humanity. In his conclusion, Mitchell writes like a loving father penning a wedding day message to his child, gently advising that romance isn't about "a labored struggle to contrive novelty," but instead about tolerance and understanding. It's common advice, but given the rest of the work's depth, humor and rigor, these familiar words take on new, and much welcomed, meaning. (Feb. 14)

Forecast:Mitchell was always adept at user-friendly writing, and this work follows in that tradition. Can Love Last? would do well on its own merit, and the Valentine's Day pub date should push sales further.

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