Ballad of the Black and Blue Mind

Anne Roiphe. Seven Stories, $23.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60980-608-8
The staid, cultured milieu of Upper West Side psychoanalysts and their clients gets an insightful and penetrating treatment from Roiphe (a National Book Award finalist for Fruitful) in this lyrical, meditative novel. The analysts—including elderly Dr. Estelle Berman and her middle-aged colleagues Dr. H. and Dr. Z.—take on a range of patients: young movie star Justine, a kleptomaniac whose real name is Betty; Anna, a self-harming college dropout; Mike, a 72-year-old widower whose son Ivan "had done something ungodly" and then fled the country. The doctors' professional and personal lives are difficult to separate. Dr. H. discovers a disguised Ivan while vacationing with his family in Belize; a very young analyst becomes obsessed with a colleague; and Edith, a "frightfully huge" poet, finally develops the courage to show Dr. Berman her work. Little by little, the aging Dr. Berman, who "considered herself a kind of exterminator... after the lice of the mind," begins to mentally deteriorate, and the damage she ultimately wreaks on the lives of Edith and her own relatives can't be mediated through psychiatry. Roiphe's accomplishment is to humanize, in sensitive prose, the men and women who would help others regain their own humanity. Readers are invited into the mysterious space beyond the consulting room, filled with spouses and children, "a lot of normal failing," and "the bravery of loving or hating or wishing." (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 05/26/2015
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