True, this is not light listening. Often intellectually dense, it's a collection of articles and essays written over several years, arranged chronologically, and unfortunately the earliest pieces, right at the beginning of the book, are the ones with the most technical language, written for an academic audience before Epstein's writing style had gotten past the doctoral dissertation stage. ***But hang in there!*** As the book progresses, the style lightens up and the concepts get easier to understand.
And what concepts! Epstein is the point man in the investigation of the intersection of Freudian psychotherapy and Buddhist meditative practice. There's just no one else who has thought about the subject so deeply and personally explored it so extensively. And he does it with a deep respect for both perspectives, knocking down many of the myths about both that prevent people from taking advantage of them.
• Freud recommended a specific listening method for therapists, "evenly suspended attention" … essentially the same wide-open, non-judging, non-interpreting approach as mindfulness meditation. But the instruction was too steep for his disciples to follow, and they immediately dumbed it down, even distorting the English translation of his phrasing.
• Epstein goes deep into the Buddhist concept of "emptiness" and incisively describes the many ways it's misunderstood — in particular, how the narcissist, the depressive, etc., each tend to distort the concept to shore up their neurosis instead of letting it go.
• Epstein also introduces the work of the child psychologist Winnicott, who was new to me, and who brings in very exciting stuff about the playful, open mind of the child and its equivalence to the playful, open mind of the artist, and the "beginner's mind" of Zen.
Much credit goes to the narrator. Sluyter does an outstanding job of vocally breaking down what could otherwise sound like forbiddingly abstract concepts, infusing the material with clarity and energy.
This is a droll, amusing little mystery with a nice collection of colorful, more or less comical characters. The narrator does an especially good job of handling the varied character voices. … I wish the previous reviewer had spent one minute consulting a dictionary before attacking the narrator's pronunciation. I heard no mispronounced words. My dictionary (Webster's New World) shows three accepted pronunciations of "pecan," including PEE-kan.
I found "Fool's Paradise" to be a rich, fascinating listen. Gaines is a terrific storyteller, with a gift for remembering that "history" is yesterday's juicy gossip. Starting with the description of a half-million dollar bat mitzvah (for the daughter of a couple of nouveau riche socialites who are not exactly Jewish), he then goes back in time to the cigar-chomping businessmen who drained the swamps, built the great hotels, and wound up in mammoth, ego-fueled feuds.
Then we get the coming of Al Capone and his gangster buddies … the Rat Pack era when Sinatra had his own suite at the Fontainebleau but didn't pay for anything but his hookers … the flamboyantly gay doorman whose pot-inspired reveries gave birth to South Beach's pastel color scheme … the Cuban boatlift and the drug wars of the "Scarface" era … the gay scene, the nightclubs, the models, etc., etc., etc.
Narrator Dean Sluyter brings the right kind of storytelling energy to all this. He voices a big cast of characters (models, mobsters, etc.) in lively fashion, and when the stories verge (often) on the surreal or the absurd, you can sense the raised eyebrow in his voice.
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