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The Lonely American
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About the Author

Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz are both Associate Clinical Professors of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Olds teaches child psychiatry and Dr. Schwartz teaches adult psychiatry at the McLean and Massachusetts General Hospitals. They are both psychoanalysts. Married to each other and with two grown children, they each maintain a private practice in Cambridge, MA. They have written two other books, Overcoming Loneliness in Everyday Life (1996, Carol Publishing Group) and Marriage in Motion (2000, Perseus Publishing Group).

Reviews

This workmanlike book takes up where Robert D. Putnam's classic Bowling Alone left off in examining the disintegration of community in 21st-century America. Americans, say the authors (both associate clinical professors of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School), have a conflicted views of community: on the one hand, they glorify rugged individualism and, on the other hand, they encourage community and look down on those who cast off community to go it alone. Drawing on interviews with their patients and on numerous studies, Olds and Schwartz point out that being a loner isn't all it's cracked up to be, and many who shun community are surprised at how lonely and socially isolated they feel. The authors conclude that Americans drift away from social connections because of the frenetic and overscheduled intensity of modern life as well as the American pantheon of self-reliant heroes. The authors restate what numerous studies have already shown: social isolation can lead to unhappiness and can have a detrimental impact on one's physical well-being and that of the larger society. The repetitious and slightly haranguing style detracts from, rather than adds to, the authors' message. (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Like seminal works such as Robert D. Putnam's Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character, and Philip Slater's The Pursuit of Loneliness, this recent addition to the sociological and psychological literature on loneliness is a substantive contribution. Coauthors Olds and her husband, Schwartz (both associate clinical professors of psychiatry, Harvard Medical Sch.), reaffirm Putnam's thesis that a sense of community is vanishing from America and that we suffer from our increasing isolation from one another. Olds and Schwartz argue that our culture fosters a pervasive belief that we must be constantly busy, yet this very "busyness" isolates us as we work harder and longer, seeking comfort through empty productivity. Exhaustion and depression set in, and we retreat from others, creating a vicious circle of loneliness. The authors capture the essence of our depressed and disjointed culture, especially now that the economy is failing and workaholism is no longer a viable refuge for many. They offer no foolproof solutions, but they do successfully generate awareness of the problem and encourage the ubiquitous lonely Americans to seek attachment and commitment as they pursue happiness. Highly recommended for all public and university libraries.-Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law, PA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

In a wise, quiet, and gentle voice, Drs. Olds and Schwartz offer a devastating portrait of present-day American culture-the fragility of social bonds, the busyness that has become a badge of social worth, the conflict between the need for respite from the frantic pace and the gnawing feelings of exclusion and loneliness that accompany our attempts to slow it down. This is a book for our time, a book that calls all of us to take a serious look at the social and psychological costs of the way we live today. --Dr. Lillian B. Rubin, author of Just Friends, Intimate Strangers, and 60 on Up

"In today's society the pursuit of individual happiness, materialism, and the frenetic pace of life has led many people unwittingly into lifestyles where they feel lonely and excluded. Yet we know that such states are damaging to physical and mental health. In their important new book, Drs. Olds and Schwartz provide a compassionate and insightful analysis of the conflicting currents that have led to this state of affairs, and they describe ways in which this pattern can be changed through individual and community efforts."--Dr. Bruce S. McEwen, author of The End of Stress as We Know It "An insightful, important, and comprehensive look at the causes and effects of the pervasive psychological and social isolation within contemporary American culture. The authors offer wise, compassionate, and helpful strategies toward the renewal of our essential human connections."--Janet L. Surrey, Ph.D. Founding Scholar, Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, Wellesley College, and Samuel Shem, author of The House of God "If you want to know why, in the midst of so many and so much, Americans all too often feel alone and disconnected, this is the volume for you. Drs. Olds and Schwartz have written a book that is scientifically rigorous and socially acute, delving deep into the latest research on the neurobiology behind our need for connection and the adverse effects of social isolation, while also unpacking the dangerous cultural myths that would deny these needs. Hooray for Olds and Schwartz's sagacity, lucidity, humanity, and practicality. Read their book and take their advice for your own sake and for the rest of us, as well!"--Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys, Rescuing Ours Sons from the Myth of Masculinity and director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School "Our contemporary situation is one of material affluence and social isolation. Olds and Schwartz provide a thoughtful and important analysis of how we came to cut ourselves off from one another, and what the consequences are."--Daniel Nettle, PhD, author of Happiness: The Science behind Your Smile

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