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J.M. Coetzee: What relationship do I have with my life history? Am I its conscious author, or should I think of myself as simply a voice uttering with as little interference as possible a stream of words welling up from my interior? Arabella Kurtz: One way of thinking about psychoanalysis is to say that it is aimed at setting free the narrative or autobiographical imaginati J.M. Coetzee: What relationship do I have with my life history? Am I its conscious author, or should I think of myself as simply a voice uttering with as little interference as possible a stream of words welling up from my interior? Arabella Kurtz: One way of thinking about psychoanalysis is to say that it is aimed at setting free the narrative or autobiographical imagination. The Good Story is a fascinating dialogue about psychotherapy and the art of storytelling between a writer with a long-standing interest in moral psychology and a psychotherapist with training in literary studies. Coetzee and Kurtz consider psychotherapy and its wider social context from different perspectives, but at the heart of both of their approaches is a concern with narrative. Working alone, the writer is in control of the story he or she tells. The therapist, on the other hand, collaborates with the patient in developing an account of the patient's life and identity that is both meaningful and true. In a meeting of minds that is illuminating and thought-provoking, the authors discuss both individual psychology and the psychology of the group: the school classroom, gangs and the settler nation, in which the brutal deeds of ancestors are accommodated into a national story. Drawing on great writers like Cervantes and Dostoevsky and psychoanalysts like Freud and Melanie Klein, Coetzee and Kurtz explore the human capacity for self-examination, our wish to tell our own life stories and the resistances we encounter along the way.


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J.M. Coetzee: What relationship do I have with my life history? Am I its conscious author, or should I think of myself as simply a voice uttering with as little interference as possible a stream of words welling up from my interior? Arabella Kurtz: One way of thinking about psychoanalysis is to say that it is aimed at setting free the narrative or autobiographical imaginati J.M. Coetzee: What relationship do I have with my life history? Am I its conscious author, or should I think of myself as simply a voice uttering with as little interference as possible a stream of words welling up from my interior? Arabella Kurtz: One way of thinking about psychoanalysis is to say that it is aimed at setting free the narrative or autobiographical imagination. The Good Story is a fascinating dialogue about psychotherapy and the art of storytelling between a writer with a long-standing interest in moral psychology and a psychotherapist with training in literary studies. Coetzee and Kurtz consider psychotherapy and its wider social context from different perspectives, but at the heart of both of their approaches is a concern with narrative. Working alone, the writer is in control of the story he or she tells. The therapist, on the other hand, collaborates with the patient in developing an account of the patient's life and identity that is both meaningful and true. In a meeting of minds that is illuminating and thought-provoking, the authors discuss both individual psychology and the psychology of the group: the school classroom, gangs and the settler nation, in which the brutal deeds of ancestors are accommodated into a national story. Drawing on great writers like Cervantes and Dostoevsky and psychoanalysts like Freud and Melanie Klein, Coetzee and Kurtz explore the human capacity for self-examination, our wish to tell our own life stories and the resistances we encounter along the way.

30 review for The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Antigone

    A writer and a psychologist exchange e-mails. The writer seems to have a bee in his bonnet about the way the world works - particularly in the arenas of repression, regression, and group dynamics. The psychologist does her very best to respond to his arguments, constantly clarifying that she can speak only from her experience as a psychologist. The writer appears to feel his only limitation lies in the number of books he has yet to read on the subject of psychoanalysis. Which is amusing and anno A writer and a psychologist exchange e-mails. The writer seems to have a bee in his bonnet about the way the world works - particularly in the arenas of repression, regression, and group dynamics. The psychologist does her very best to respond to his arguments, constantly clarifying that she can speak only from her experience as a psychologist. The writer appears to feel his only limitation lies in the number of books he has yet to read on the subject of psychoanalysis. Which is amusing and annoying all at the same time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Russell

    good snippets on psychoanalysis here and there from Kurtz. I genuinely appreciated her role in this novel as she brought the discussion back to utilitarian workings of the therapist in discussion with Coetzee's... things. perhaps I do not appreciate Coetzee's style of writing, but throughout this exchange I found some of his comments not only irrelevant, but at times, rude. i was thoroughly unimpressed when it came to me that this was "the most celebrated living writer of the English language." t good snippets on psychoanalysis here and there from Kurtz. I genuinely appreciated her role in this novel as she brought the discussion back to utilitarian workings of the therapist in discussion with Coetzee's... things. perhaps I do not appreciate Coetzee's style of writing, but throughout this exchange I found some of his comments not only irrelevant, but at times, rude. i was thoroughly unimpressed when it came to me that this was "the most celebrated living writer of the English language." thus, half of the novel as a result holds significantly less weight if any reader is in hope of reading slightly denser psychological material. sorry i'm not sorry, Coetzee, but the moralistic concerns that are continually raised are totally out of context to the situation in dealing with patients.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lukasz Pruski

    "... we can entertain the notion that we are continually engaging with constructions (fictions) of others, rather than with their 'real' selves [...] We can also entertain the more plausible (and more interesting) notion that our engagements are with a constantly changing interplay between shadows (fictions) and glimpses of the real." The Good Story (2015) by J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz is based on a fascinating premise. This non-fiction volume is framed as a discussion between Mr. Coetzee, t "... we can entertain the notion that we are continually engaging with constructions (fictions) of others, rather than with their 'real' selves [...] We can also entertain the more plausible (and more interesting) notion that our engagements are with a constantly changing interplay between shadows (fictions) and glimpses of the real." The Good Story (2015) by J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz is based on a fascinating premise. This non-fiction volume is framed as a discussion between Mr. Coetzee, the Nobel Prize winning writer (and one of my most favorite authors), and Dr. Arabella Kurtz, a British psychotherapist. This combination of specialties is not as farfetched as it might seem: we read in the Authors' Note that literature and psychotherapy have a lot in common: for instance, the interest in human experience, the use of language as the "common working medium," and the analysis of "narrative structures." The book is divided into chapters that focus on topics such as truth, memories and their repression, relationships between people, group experiences and mentality. The authors discuss issues of subjective truth, dynamic (evolving) truth, intersubjective truth and the closely related topics of malleability of memory, self invention, and psychotherapy as a scheme to create (reconstruct) a patient's memories. I have found everything in the book interesting but the theme that I relate to most strongly is the one I refer to in the epigraph: human relationships as interactions between projected fictions. Here Mr. Coetzee even mentions the so-called Turing test for dialogue where one has to decide whether their interlocutor (who is not visible) is an actual human being or rather a computer program. Another of his key observations is: "[...] relations between people as a matter of interlocking fictions. When the fictions interlock well, the relation works or seems to work (I am not sure that there is a difference between the two). When they don't interlock, conflict or disengagement follow." When noting the human tendency toward creating fictions about themselves, Dr. Kurtz claims "We need the fictions of others to know ourselves", Mr. Coetzee clarifies the claim: "We need the fictions of others about us in order to form our fictions of ourselves." If it were proper to take sides in the discussion between Mr. Coetzee and Ms. Kurtz, I would certainly be on the author's side. I agree with most everything he says in the discussion and - more importantly - I believe that the ideas he puts forward are deeper and more fundamental. To me, Ms. Kurtz is too immersed in the Freudian canon with its limited and restrictive intellectual toolkit. To me her most important contributions are the fascinating insights into the practice of psychotherapy. A captivating, illuminating, and deep read which I would rate with five stars if not for the fact that the authors too often talk past each other and not necessarily with each other. Still, a great book! Four and a quarter stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    I'm constantly fascinated by how story and narrative play out in how we live and construct our lives and this issue becomes more fascinating when you insert fiction into the mix. Coetzee brings his experience as a fiction writer and a teacher to the conversation to contrast with Kurtz's clinical perspective and the deep topics of "truth vs. fiction" are explored. Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Hardy (along with Coetzee's veiled suggestion that Hester Prynne's scarlet letter was describing all of the Purit I'm constantly fascinated by how story and narrative play out in how we live and construct our lives and this issue becomes more fascinating when you insert fiction into the mix. Coetzee brings his experience as a fiction writer and a teacher to the conversation to contrast with Kurtz's clinical perspective and the deep topics of "truth vs. fiction" are explored. Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Hardy (along with Coetzee's veiled suggestion that Hester Prynne's scarlet letter was describing all of the Puritans as "Assholes") and one author I didn't know, W.G. Sebald are all discussed with a flurry of new insights. I also enjoyed Coetzee's speculation that psychotherapy was secularism's answer to the confessional. The book is also about living the good life or making a good story out of your life. The one place the book headed that was totally unexpected was group dynamics. Almost half of the book was on how stories, both fictional and psychotherapeutic, play out in groups. In hindsight, this could have been predicted due to Coetzee's constant struggle with his Afrikaners' background. Groups behaving badly are actually more frightening than individuals behaving badly. The one drawback was this book was a dialogue and because of that sometimes left me wanting them to dwell more on a topic they were discussing instead of moving on, but this is why it is a book I will keep coming back to, so I can do what Coetzee said the written word can't really do and that is carry on a dialogue with these two fascinating people in my own head. I think I need to talk to my therapist about that.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne Goodwin

    I’ve mentioned before that I think novelists and psychotherapists are in a similar business, yet the fictional therapists we encounter on the page sometimes fail to convince. So what better way for the writer bent on creating a credible fictional therapist than to eavesdrop on a conversation between a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a clinical psychologist, lecturer and psychoanalytic psychotherapist? As JM Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz toss ideas back and forth about the intersection I’ve mentioned before that I think novelists and psychotherapists are in a similar business, yet the fictional therapists we encounter on the page sometimes fail to convince. So what better way for the writer bent on creating a credible fictional therapist than to eavesdrop on a conversation between a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a clinical psychologist, lecturer and psychoanalytic psychotherapist? As JM Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz toss ideas back and forth about the intersection between truth, story and morality, the writer is afforded a remarkable insight into the workings of the therapist’s mind. Full review: http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdo...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex Linschoten

    More Coetzee! (Good for the soul!) This book is the written record of a dialogue between Coetzee and a psychotherapist (Arabella Kurtz). The subject matter is interesting if somewhat unfocused. The character and progression of their dialogue, the way they talk to and around each other, was to my mind the real hero of this book. I found their interaction highly stimulating, and it made me wonder why more books like this don't exist. We have the institution of the public discussion, on a stage with More Coetzee! (Good for the soul!) This book is the written record of a dialogue between Coetzee and a psychotherapist (Arabella Kurtz). The subject matter is interesting if somewhat unfocused. The character and progression of their dialogue, the way they talk to and around each other, was to my mind the real hero of this book. I found their interaction highly stimulating, and it made me wonder why more books like this don't exist. We have the institution of the public discussion, on a stage with an audience, but having the dialogue take place on paper seems to my mind a better way of going about things. You can take time, you can review what was said, you can express yourself in the best way that reflects what you seek to explain, and so on. Recommended for the above, and for two fascinating discussions of Dostoevsky and Sebald (and what they have to say about the nature of confession, and the extent to which we can know things and/or come to terms with our histor(ies)).

  7. 5 out of 5

    GONZA

    Well written and interesting even if sometimes it was a little bit too easy, but ok, not everybody has a background studying this type of things. Ben scritto ed interessante anche se a volte molte cose sono state ipersemplificate, ma immagino che non é che tutti possano avere alle spalle anni di studi sull'argomento.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Billy Jepma

    Reading this felt like reading the transcript for a very long, very intellectual podcast. If that appeals to you, then great! Because there is a lot of interesting ideas discussed here. However, those ideas are not as interconnected as I would have liked - since this entire book really is just one long conversation between two monologuing intellectuals 0 and for a book, I felt like this lacked the cohesive tissue needed to tie Coetzee and Kurtz's (admittedly compelling arguments and rationalizat Reading this felt like reading the transcript for a very long, very intellectual podcast. If that appeals to you, then great! Because there is a lot of interesting ideas discussed here. However, those ideas are not as interconnected as I would have liked - since this entire book really is just one long conversation between two monologuing intellectuals 0 and for a book, I felt like this lacked the cohesive tissue needed to tie Coetzee and Kurtz's (admittedly compelling arguments and rationalizations) together. Instead, it comes across like two deeply intelligent thinkers talking past each other from the perspective of their respective fields. This leads to some fascinating content, to be sure, but there was a distance between the two sides that was never bridged, leaving the book to feel like two separate academic journals conversing with each other at a tangential distance. Again, there's some very good, very worthwhile material here, but the presentation and cohesion of it was lacking for me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Coetzee and psychotherapist Arabella Kurtz discuss memory, repression and narrative in the context of both fiction and psychotherapy. The scope ranges from the individual level to societal. I especially liked the section where they discuss South Africa and Australia's colonial violence and how those memories are processed and repressed in the present. Interestingly, Kurtz seems more comfortable with the slipperiness of real "truth" than Coetzee the fiction writer. The book ends with Coetzee posi Coetzee and psychotherapist Arabella Kurtz discuss memory, repression and narrative in the context of both fiction and psychotherapy. The scope ranges from the individual level to societal. I especially liked the section where they discuss South Africa and Australia's colonial violence and how those memories are processed and repressed in the present. Interestingly, Kurtz seems more comfortable with the slipperiness of real "truth" than Coetzee the fiction writer. The book ends with Coetzee positing that in both fiction and psychotherapy truth must be revealed for things to work out as they should. Why are there no stories about people who happily deceive themselves forever? This question is asked in several ways, but not definitively answered.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chinmaya Lal

    The book doesn't always hold the reader's attention but the whole exchange between Kurtz and Coetzee is marked by moments of startling insight and humanity. Coetzee's comments reveal his keen, though obviously expected, investment in what it means to tell stories- in novels as well as in 'real' life. Kurtz's responses, strikingly original and fearless, not only refect a sharp intellect at work but also an individual who speaks with great eloquence and wisdom about the discipline that she studies The book doesn't always hold the reader's attention but the whole exchange between Kurtz and Coetzee is marked by moments of startling insight and humanity. Coetzee's comments reveal his keen, though obviously expected, investment in what it means to tell stories- in novels as well as in 'real' life. Kurtz's responses, strikingly original and fearless, not only refect a sharp intellect at work but also an individual who speaks with great eloquence and wisdom about the discipline that she studies and practices.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Natania

    Profound, important, thought-provoking at every turn. The dialogue format is part of the very point of the book, and works well--the two thinkers push against one another productively. I would like a sequel, and then another sequel, to this discussion of intra and inter-psychic processes, on individual and national levels.

  12. 5 out of 5

    J. Pineiro

    Fascinating account of the intersection between fiction writing and psychology concerning subjects like truth-telling, self-perception, and sense of well being. Coetzee again confirms that he is a master of the tales that people tell themselves to square their self-image with their public persona.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nick Jacob

    Stimulating exchange of ideas about fictional and psychoanalytical truth seeking...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    A fascinating discussion on our understanding of fiction and truth.

  15. 4 out of 5

    LX Smith

    Interesting and informative although the title is misleading. To receive a higher rating, a more thorough exploration of narrative therapy was required.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kit Lea

    junior spring break plane reading. devoured it from start to finish on a plane's window seat. two sharp minds in conversation - on what psychoanalysis can offer to literature and vice versa.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    A few passages were insightful and thought-provoking but overall the book feels pretentious.

  18. 4 out of 5

    S.L. Berry

    What is truth? Is it what you believe to be true? Or, is it what an objectively reasonable person would believe to be true? Or yet is it something that cannot be ascertained by humans? Does it matter that what you believe is not completely true? When does it matter? To what extent? What happens, how do you feel when you discover that what you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to is not the truth? That it was all a dream? That it was made up in the narrator or producer’s mind? Why do people What is truth? Is it what you believe to be true? Or, is it what an objectively reasonable person would believe to be true? Or yet is it something that cannot be ascertained by humans? Does it matter that what you believe is not completely true? When does it matter? To what extent? What happens, how do you feel when you discover that what you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to is not the truth? That it was all a dream? That it was made up in the narrator or producer’s mind? Why do people make up stories, fictions? To repress something they would rather not deal with? To make their life easier, more memorable, even if they have nothing horrific in their past? Is a person ever really free of their past? Can you keep the past buried? Or is there a sense of cosmic justice that forces the past to come to the forefront? Does the past haunt make-believe worlds? Adam Sisman’s biography of John LeCarre delves into this, as does the historical fictional fantasy television series, Reign. How do the worlds of a writer, historian, teacher, and psychoanalyst intersect? What can each learn from the other? These are some of the issues examined in Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee & Therapist Arabella Kurtz’s psychoanalytic dialogue The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy. For readers who have no or relatively little or in my case dated knowledge gleaned from one or two decades-old psychology and sociology college courses, The Good Story can be hard to get into. There is a jargon. There is no way to escape this. Muddle through it. It helps if you can relate what is discussed to novels you have read. Detective novels, particularly those by Michael Connelly (The Black Echo and The Drop) and Sue Grafton (X) come to mind. For writers of fiction, at least on the commercial side, and memoirists to an extent, there is one certain truth—that of keeping the reader engaged through artful storytelling that keeps readers turning the pages and buying the next book. This necessarily involves skipping the dull interesting parts. It is not definitely not an objective neutral assessment of a character, a plot line that stretches out indefinitely. Nor is it always telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, though entirely leading a reader down the wrong garden path probably is not wise. For literary writers, where the maintenance of a narrative arc (building up of action to a point and then quickly descending to a conclusion) or in some cases, where plot is not much in evidence, the more introspective or “dull boring parts” that are left out of thrillers and mysteries become more important. Literary writing is hard to read because of this often and sometimes, it is very unsatisfying. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is in that vein for me. Yet I will continue to read Tartt along with Coetzee, Edith Wharton, and others because they make me think, long after I finished their work. Still literary writing has to have some semblance; otherwise it is never finished. The question then becomes: What does an author leave out? And, the parts that are left out, are they deep truths that ought to have been left in? Kurtz seemed to me to be saying that therapists seek to get at a poetic or emotional truth, one that is not 100% objective truth. Such truth is not possible at least from us mere mortals, and ultimately may not even exist. To me, a totally objective truth is fathoming the inside of a black hole or the premises underlying complex mathematical equations. Poetic or emotional truth allows for an internal coherence while maintaining certain identification to the world at large. Or in other worlds, maintaining that all-important reality check. Another area examined by Coetzee and Kurtz is groups, whether familial—nuclear and expanded, neighborhood, school, civic or societal, their functioning, individual v group beliefs, group mindsets, regressive and repressive tendencies of groups, outside analysis of groups by individuals or groups, and role playing or fantasies insulating groups from reality. In the last category, Coetzee examines anti-social, destructive tendencies of gangs. Coetzee writes that gang members put on a persona that is often at odds with and deliberately in challenge to societal expectations. At the end of the “day,” gang members in effect change clothes and become the boy they were before. While Coetzee’s examination of gangs is based on his boyhood experience in South Africa as a member of a gang, his analysis is relevant to today’s criminal street gangs. For an interesting article on the gang-male dichotomy, see Life, Death, and Gangs in South Dekalb, a story that recently headlined in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ultimately, The Good Story is an examination of what it means to and what it takes to know thyself, to know others, in a way that keeps life interesting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helene Passtoors

    This book contains an exchange between JM Coetzee and a British psychotherapist/psychoanalyst, Arabella Kurtz. It will interest anyone who knows Coetzee's writings well as well as readers primarily interested in clinical psychology and psychoanalysis. The dialogue turns basically around the notion or notions of truth. Life stories are always fictions, Coetzee maintains. Yet psychotherapy is largely based on the Freudian idea that freeing repressed memories or correcting their interpretation equa This book contains an exchange between JM Coetzee and a British psychotherapist/psychoanalyst, Arabella Kurtz. It will interest anyone who knows Coetzee's writings well as well as readers primarily interested in clinical psychology and psychoanalysis. The dialogue turns basically around the notion or notions of truth. Life stories are always fictions, Coetzee maintains. Yet psychotherapy is largely based on the Freudian idea that freeing repressed memories or correcting their interpretation equals arriving at 'the truth' which liberates the patient and allows for 'growth', development and a happier life. But is this new version of the life story not another fiction? What about the relationship between therapist and patient working towards 'growth' through a 'true' - or truer - life story vs the novelist, the artist, working in isolation? These questions are discussed from different viewpoints, among others with reference to Dostoevsky, the master of "diagnosis of complex motives that may underlie a decision - or an impulse - to bare one's heart"(p38). There is an assumption that 'baring one's heart' or digging up one's repressed memories is the way to happiness. But is this true?, asks Coetzee. "It is of no use to argue that the countless instances we have of the repressed returning to haunt us prove that the repressed always returns, since by definition we don't hear of cases where the repressed does not return" Coetzee concludes(p191). Many people may live happily with such fiction of their life story. Of particular interest is the multifacetted discussion about the psychology of groups for which, it turns out, western psychology has no real analytical tools. Among the topics are nationalism for which the psychologist posits a positive version of national pride and a negative one of 'we and the others', the ennemy. But Coetzee having been brought up under apartheid and being a reluctant heir to Afrikaner nationalism remains doubtful about positive nationalism. What about the stories national groups make up to cover up crimes of the past under the pretext of the 'zeitgeist'; "the strategy must have a psychological dimension, since as a piece of self-deception it works: it enables us to retain our good opinion of ourselves yet not to unmoor ourselves entirely from the past... Can you help?" (p89) The psychologist tries but can't. In the end for Coetzee behaviour of groups of all kinds - including classroom, gangs, hospital staff... - always tends to be regressive as compared to that of the individual members. He instinctively contests the Freudian basic model of the group consisting of child, mother and father which does not seem to be universal. This may well be the reason why western psychology is unable to come to grips with the psychology of groups and raises lots of questions in the reader's mind. To start with the current zeitgeist and the western ideal of personal growth... These few remarks can't give enough credit to the rich dialogue that explores many basic questions Coetzee addresses in his work and therapists in theirs, and thus opens up a wealth of fresh thoughts and questionings. The exchange was conducted in writing and the book contains a useful glossary of basic psychological notions such as repression, transference, projection, Oedipus complex, splitting etc.

  20. 4 out of 5

    James Klagge

    An odd book--basically an e-mail conversation in which discussion is initiated by questions from Coetzee. So he sort of sets the agenda, but he takes Kurtz as a subject worth asking questions of, so psychotherapy becomes a sort of focus. Coetzee is of course a Nobel Prize-winning novelist, and I bought the book on the strength of his involvement. It was never clear why he chose her as a subject for interview, though she was interesting enough. Coetzee was very precise in his questions and contri An odd book--basically an e-mail conversation in which discussion is initiated by questions from Coetzee. So he sort of sets the agenda, but he takes Kurtz as a subject worth asking questions of, so psychotherapy becomes a sort of focus. Coetzee is of course a Nobel Prize-winning novelist, and I bought the book on the strength of his involvement. It was never clear why he chose her as a subject for interview, though she was interesting enough. Coetzee was very precise in his questions and contributions. She was less so. They contributed roughly equal amount of verbiage. Some of the topics were very interesting (to me), others much less so (to me). I was especially interested in the role of truth and fantasy in fiction and in psychotherapy. I was less interested in discussions of infant psychology and group psychology. I think their main conclusion about group psychology is that we don't understand it very well. I was interested in their discussions of classroom teaching, including at the university level, and the role of transference in both teaching and therapy. Coetzee's main interest is in the question of how important truth is in self-understanding. He continually asks Kurtz whether a person can be healthy who lives a (somewhat) fictionalized story about him or herself as a defense against a difficult past, or whether we all ultimately have to accommodate the truth about ourselves. (Of course these are matters of degree.) She does not give a very straight answer, but wiggles around by questioning the notion of truth at work here, and accepting a sort of pragmatic approach that makes room for fictionalization. Coetzee defends the notion of truth--perhaps not an objective Platonic sort, but at least objective enough to constitute an obstacle to fantasy. He thinks that this coming to terms with the truth about oneself is a common plot for novels and for therapy. He suggests that no good novel could be written about a case where (significant) accommodation to fantasy is successful. There is a presumption that therapy requires a coming-to-terms with the (truth about one's) past, but he suggests that we can't know if that presumption is true, since we have no idea how many people (successfully) live a fantasy and never seek out therapy. The book concludes with a short (10-page) exchange on the novel Austerlitz which is one of my favorites.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Despite the book being sent to me as part of the GoodReads First Reads* program, I went into reading it knowing almost nothing about it. Picking up the book I had expected it to focus on the craft of writing, either through direct discussion of elements like characterization or more indirectly through discussion of the art of story telling. What this book is, however, is quite different. Instead of examining fiction directly, it examines the role of truth (absolutely and relatively) in fiction a Despite the book being sent to me as part of the GoodReads First Reads* program, I went into reading it knowing almost nothing about it. Picking up the book I had expected it to focus on the craft of writing, either through direct discussion of elements like characterization or more indirectly through discussion of the art of story telling. What this book is, however, is quite different. Instead of examining fiction directly, it examines the role of truth (absolutely and relatively) in fiction and psychology, both individually and societally. Initially, I had a hard time deciding what to say about this book. There were parts of it that were utterly fascinating but there were also parts that were difficult to follow or slow to get through. In particular, I enjoyed the sections written by Kurtz. Her insights were more concise and her examples more compelling compared to Coetzee's more tangential writing. Overall, I think there's a little bit of something for everyone in the book and the topics discussed are timely and salient. It wasn't until I read the book that I realized how often many of thematic threads discussed occur in other texts, fiction and nonfiction. While I struggled to make it through the book, in the end I am glad I did since it's definitely changed the way I approached both personal narratives and the written word. *All opinions, as always, are my own.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This is a dense, intriguing inquiry into the relationship between two subjects dear to my heart: novels and psychotherapy. Coetzee and Kurtz engage in a dialogue seeking to discover the link between the two, and how each can teach us about our past, our interactions with others, and group dynamics as big as nationalism. Coetzee, the novelist, believes that any version of ourselves or others is always a fiction, with perhaps flickers of truth emerging at key moments. If this is the case, why seek This is a dense, intriguing inquiry into the relationship between two subjects dear to my heart: novels and psychotherapy. Coetzee and Kurtz engage in a dialogue seeking to discover the link between the two, and how each can teach us about our past, our interactions with others, and group dynamics as big as nationalism. Coetzee, the novelist, believes that any version of ourselves or others is always a fiction, with perhaps flickers of truth emerging at key moments. If this is the case, why seek to know ourselves or others? Kurtz, the psychotherapist, believes that the seeking is the point: patients who come to her are troubled, unhappy, and the search for the truth about their past, how they interact with others, and who they truly are brings them relief. Over and over, Coetzee thinks about things theoretically and Kurtz brings him back to lived experience. One exception to this is Coetzee's discussion of his time as a teacher, and how the teaching relationship is similar to the therapeutic one. I would recommend that chapter alone to my teaching friends. A truly thought-provoking work.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kte'pi

    Surprisingly slight, and Coetzee comes across as weirdly moralistic at times. This is an oddball of a book, but not for the reasons I was expecting - it doesn't go as deep in its discussions of psychotherapy as I was expecting and hoping. In a classroom context, for instance, I would use this as an introductory text rather than a text for intermediate students already familiar with psychotherapy; similarly, readers who are not new to the topic may feel ... not hand-held, exactly, but may feel fr Surprisingly slight, and Coetzee comes across as weirdly moralistic at times. This is an oddball of a book, but not for the reasons I was expecting - it doesn't go as deep in its discussions of psychotherapy as I was expecting and hoping. In a classroom context, for instance, I would use this as an introductory text rather than a text for intermediate students already familiar with psychotherapy; similarly, readers who are not new to the topic may feel ... not hand-held, exactly, but may feel frustrated by the urge to encourage the authors to go further and deeper in their discussion, only to witness them moving on to the next topic instead.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Overall, a thought-provoking read. Most fascinating was Coetzee's discussion of collective historical memory and how nations' willingness to selectively remember, forgive, and forget parallels with individual psychology. Sometimes I thought I would rather have read this book as two separate, self-contained essays by Coetzee and Kurtz, as they often seemed to be skirting around the same broad themes instead of having a direct dialogue. On occasion, though, when they touched on the same specific ex Overall, a thought-provoking read. Most fascinating was Coetzee's discussion of collective historical memory and how nations' willingness to selectively remember, forgive, and forget parallels with individual psychology. Sometimes I thought I would rather have read this book as two separate, self-contained essays by Coetzee and Kurtz, as they often seemed to be skirting around the same broad themes instead of having a direct dialogue. On occasion, though, when they touched on the same specific examples--Dostoevsky, Scarlet Letter, etc.--they came more near a true dialogue.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Salvatore

    (2020) Who is Socrates in these dialogues? Very engaging. I guess I should read Freud? == (2015) A fascinating conversation between a Nobel Prize laureate in literature and a studying psychotherapist on what Truth/truth and life-writing/-storytelling are. And yet the gem of it is the latter author, who shines in offering strong opinions and evidence over Coetzee's own questions and repetitions and high rhetoric. A read if you're interested in literature or the psychology of the self. And what it m (2020) Who is Socrates in these dialogues? Very engaging. I guess I should read Freud? == (2015) A fascinating conversation between a Nobel Prize laureate in literature and a studying psychotherapist on what Truth/truth and life-writing/-storytelling are. And yet the gem of it is the latter author, who shines in offering strong opinions and evidence over Coetzee's own questions and repetitions and high rhetoric. A read if you're interested in literature or the psychology of the self. And what it means to tell a story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    Starts out as a very compelling discussion regarding truth, fiction and the role therapy can play in ascertaining their roles in our everyday lives. The conversation expands its focus from looking a individual memories to the histories of nations and the collective pasts of its citizens, which then leads to different territory altogether: the psychology of groups. The digressive but dense exchanges that follow were of less interest to me. As an exchange of ideas there is plenty worth eavesdroppi Starts out as a very compelling discussion regarding truth, fiction and the role therapy can play in ascertaining their roles in our everyday lives. The conversation expands its focus from looking a individual memories to the histories of nations and the collective pasts of its citizens, which then leads to different territory altogether: the psychology of groups. The digressive but dense exchanges that follow were of less interest to me. As an exchange of ideas there is plenty worth eavesdropping on here, but as a book the uneven structure can be hard-going in its second half.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Walter

    A fascinating exchange between a fiction writer and a psychotherapist about the fictions that define our lives and the question of whether the way we perceive ourselves and our lives can be anything but fictional. Kurtz and Coetzee have a lively debate that is enriching at every turn. I read this book slowly and hesitated to finish it because I enjoyed it so much and because it constantly make me critically reflect on my own experience. It’s a book I wish everyone would read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Banbury

    Most of the time I did not feel I was really connecting with either author; indeed I often did not understand what they were saying, nor why they put any importance to their examinations of the questions presented. Why did either care about the differences and connections between individual and group mentalities? Ms. Kurtz comes off as one who does not question her own views or the efficacy of the psychological treatment models and methods she has learned.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Keith Wilson

    A Nobel winning novelist and a psychoanalist discuss the formation of stories, both fictional and personal, although there is little difference between the two. This is a book that only a Nobel winning novelist can get away with publishing, but good thing Coetzee has. I was fascinated by so much in this book, but particularly the idea that a person could forget the past, should, and must.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sara A.

    I got this book through goodreads giveaway first read. It was Interesting enough read. I studied some psychology in college and like to read a few books every now and then because I find it interesting. I found some of the discussions very thought provoking while others not so much.

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