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The Schopenhauer Cure


Having taken on the origins of psychotherapy in the popular When Nietzsche Wept, psychiatrist-novelist Yalom now turns to group therapy and the thinker sometimes known as the "philosopher of pessimism," in this meticulous, occasionally slow-moving book. Julius Hertzfeld, a successful therapist in San Francisco, is shocked by the news that he suffers from terminal cancer. Moved to reassess his life's work, he contacts Philip Slate, whose three years of therapy for sexual addiction Julius describes as an "old-time major-league failure." Philip is now training to be a therapist himself, guided by the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, and he offers to teach Julius about Schopenhauer as a way of helping him deal with his looming death. Julius and Philip strike a deal: Julius will serve as Philip's clinical supervisor, but only if Philip joins the ongoing therapy group Julius leads. To complicate matters further, Pam, a group member, is one of the hundreds of women Philip seduced and then rejected. Yalom often refers to his books as "teaching novels," and his re-creation of a working therapy group is utterly convincing. At the same time, his approach can be overly documentary, as the inner workings of therapy, often repetitious and self-referential, absorb much of the novel's momentum. A parallel account of Schopenhauer's life sheds light on the philosopher's intellectual triumphs and emotional difficulties.

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Tags: Julius, therapy, Moved, reassess, contacts, Schopenhauer, terminal, cancer