Shrink And Grow

Summer Reads To Tide You Over, While Your Therapist Is Away

By Susan Shapiro

Published August 18, 2009.

With many shrinks away between now and the end of the summer, Susan Shapiro, the author of the new novel “Speed Shrinking” (St. Martin’s Press), suggests abandoned patients get their fill of talk therapy from these works of fiction:

“Fear of Flying”
By Erica Jong

There’s a reason 20 million copies are in print. Jong’s hilarious 1973 therapy, sex, and feminist tour de force about hot, unhappily married 29-year-old poet, Isadora Wing, fantasizing her way through Freud’s Vienna will make you want to see a shrink, be a shrink, date, mate and divorce a shrink before you can say “zipless.”

“Portnoy’s Complaint”
By Philip Roth

Told as a monologue from patient Portnoy to Dr. Spielvogel, Roth’s 1969 laugh riot is his most popular book — except with some in his own tribe who have called him a self-hating Jew. It’ll remind you that your family’s ethnic insanity is actually normal. And you’ll never again say, “what am I, chopped liver?” without laughing (or puking, depending on your gross out level). The book is way better than the film starring Richard Benjamin.

“August”
By Judith Rossner

For a more serious chronicle of psychoanalysis, this 1983 bestseller could be subtitled “Looking for Dr. Goodbar.” Luckily, 20-year-old New England client, Dawn Henly, finds her in 40-year-old Manhattanite Dr. Lulu Shinefield. Okay, the names Dawn, Lulu and Shinefield are Dickensian and I wouldn’t recommend the realistic, dialogue-heavy soft cover for the beach. Still, Rossner’s story is the real deal and you’ll be thankful your background is nowhere near as insane as Dawn’s.

“The Treatment”
By Daniel Menaker

Thirty-two year old Upper West Side wimpy teacher Jake Singer has a crazy Cuban, Catholic head doctor, proving you don’t have to be a Jewish shrink to be meshugge in this serio-comic Manhattan shrinkfest. Fascinatingly, Dr. Morales turns out to be dead-on about his patient’s need to grow balls. Bonus: Rent the recent fun movie starring Ian Holm as the last foul-mouthed Freudian.

“Therapy”
By David Lodge

One wouldn’t think a British satirist could do justice to psychoanalysis. But this 1995 satire charmingly chronicles the misadventures of 50ish sitcom writer, Tubby Passmore, a successful, rich married dad in England addicted to everything from psychotherapy to aromatherapy.

“Genius”
By Jesse Kellerman

I don’t even like mysteries, but couldn’t put down this tale by the Orthodox Jewish son of two bestselling writer shrinks (Jonathan and Faye Kellerman). Kellerman Jr.’s third novel depicts real crimes and not just imagined ones. In this quick, clever 2008 Queens-and-Chelsea located whodunit about 33-year-old East Coast art dealer, Ethan Muller, bodies get unburied faster than you can say “unconscious wishes.” Does he feel Jewish guilt if his books sell better than mom and pop’s?

“The Schopenhaur Cure”
By Irvin Yalom

Prolific psychiatrist-novelist Yalom nails his 2005 portrait of 65-year-old ailing West Coast psychiatrist Julius Hertzefeld, and incorporates sex addiction, mentor/protégé connections and philosophy into this tale of two men’s search for meaning.It’s almost as good as his nonfiction bestseller, “Love’s Executioner.”

“Envy”
By Kathleen Harrison

The ick factor of 47-year-old married male Park Slope psychoanalyst William Moreland, in this beautifully written 2005 novel, will make you happy you can’t afford therapy, anyway.

Susan Shapiro is a Manhattan writing teacher and author of six books, filled with quotes from her shrinks.



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