cover image The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy

The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy

J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz. Viking, $27.95 (198p) ISBN 978-0-525-42951-7

In a series of conversations, recorded between 2011 and 2014, that vary from lively and engaging to staid and tiresome, author Coetzee and his friend, psychotherapist Kurtz, discuss the nature of fiction and truth. Their overriding concerns include storytelling’s power to shape the struggle between individual and society, and people’s resistance to telling their own stories without inhibition. In an early conversation, Coetzee asks whether, in telling his life’s story, he should shape the narrative to heighten drama, or instead stick to objective facts. Kurtz responds that she cannot abide by this opposition between truth and practicality, but that individuals should be content with a version of the truth that works for them. Coetzee wonders repeatedly whether a person’s past can ever be truly buried; Kurtz doesn’t believe it can. Responding to Coetzee’s fascination with how groups shape individuals, Kurtz asserts that “early family experiences” ultimately determine one’s “power for creativity or destructiveness.” Eventually, though only after Coetzee’s overbearing voice becomes wearisome, he concludes that the difference between them is that Kurtz wants to help her patients become happier through greater self-awareness, whereas he doubts such understanding is possible. Reading these rambling conversations is like stumbling onto a private conversation between two people overly absorbed in their personal intellectual games. (Oct.)