A brilliant psychoanalyst and professor of literature invites us to contemplate profound questions about the human experience by focusing on some of the best-known characters in literature—from how Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway copes with the inexorability of midlife disappointment to Ruth's embodiment of adolescent rebellion in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
“So beautiful ... a fantastic book.” —Zadie Smith, best-selling author of White Teeth
In supple and elegant prose, and with all the expertise and insight of his dual professions, Josh Cohen explores a new way for us to understand ourselves. He helps us see what Lewis Carroll’s Alice and Harper Lee’s Scout Finch can teach us about childhood. He delineates the mysteries of education as depicted in Jane Eyre and as seen through the eyes of Sandy Stranger in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
He discusses the need for adolescent rebellion as embodied in John Grimes in James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain and in Ruth in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. He makes clear what Goethe’s Young Werther and Sally Rooney’s Frances have—and don’t have—in common as they experience first love; how Middlemarch’s Dorothea Brooke deals with the vicissitudes of marriage. Vis-a-vis old age and death, Cohen considers what wisdom we may glean from John Ames in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and from Don Fabrizio in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard.
Alice—Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass
Scout Finch—Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Jane Eyre—Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
John Grimes—James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain
Ruth—Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Vladimir Petrovitch—Ivan Turgenev, First Love
Frances—Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends
Jay Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Esther Greenwood—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Clarissa Dalloway—Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway