By their choice of occupation, psychologists become fair game for biographers, but not many subjects hold the fascination of Carl Jung. Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography, winner of the National Book Award) tackles the Swiss founder of analytical psychology who began as a Freud acolyte before breaking away and developing a professional and general audience for his work on psychological types, myth, symbols, and synchronicity, among other things. Her well-crafted narrative integrates life and work, though the latter predominates. Jung's following included celebrities and students, though he often behaved badly. Of course, he was brilliant, but he was also "half-mad," a virtual bigamist, an absentee father, and a hothead. His leadership of a Nazi-sponsored psychology group created a furor; those who fault Jung on this point-and on his womanizing and irregular modes of therapy-will consider Bair an apologist. To her, he was politically na?ve, culturally embedded, and prone to poor judgment. Her abundant and vivid detail (supplemented with 200 pages of notes) allows readers to appraise the force and foibles of a peculiar, phenomenal man. This massive and masterful treatment of Jung balances other, more contentious writing about him and will long be the definitive biography. For all libraries.-E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"A remarkable biography of a remarkable French woman--the high priestess of existentialism and modern feminism. Deirdre Bair writes with an intimacy and vividness unique in modern American biography." "Deirdre Bair's portrait of Simone de Beauvoir is at once intimate and authoritative, entertainingly readable and densely researched. She has amassed a vast amount of information without being tyrannized by it."
Jung's shade would be content with Bair's biography, which in bulk and detail suggests that there is little more to say. Lucid and persuasive, the National Book Award-winning biographer of Beckett strikes a balance between damage control and deification, for Jung's ambition, arrogance and lack of generosity tend now to obscure his originality as a thinker and his impact on theories about why we dream and how we think. While Bair provides perhaps more about almost every aspect of his youth, maturity, rivalries, renown and old age than we care to know, it takes an author's note and two long endnotes to realize how much censorship the Jung heirs still insist upon. Bair was, for example, denied access to the diaries of Jung and his mother, which were deemed "too private," and to the thousand letters between Jung and his devoted (yet mistreated) wife. Even so, through interviews, published documentation and the papers released to her, Bair has evoked the man in all his cynical self-interest, opportunism, moral ambiguity, paradoxical insecurity and charismatic hold on decades of disciples. How much a purported Swiss temperament of suspicion, exclusiveness and obsession with ancestral status influenced Jung's development is a fascinating thread winding through Bair's narrative, affecting his personal and professional relations. Freud, father figure and then foe, comes off badly as ambitious, arrogant, single-minded and vengeful. Bair's Jung is no saint, but he is less unpleasant and exploitative here than as portrayed in Frank McLynn's 1997 biography. The large hole in this large book is not biographical. Jung's significance has much to do with his theories of archetypes and the related power of the collective unconscious. One finishes the book without much explanation of either. 32 pages of b&w photos. (Nov. 13) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.