The Mummy at the Dining Room Table: Eminent Therapists Reveal Their Most Unusual Cases - Jeffrey Kottler & Jon Carlson
I'd actually started this book a while back but got interrupted by our move to Portland, so I checked it out here and finished it. The title is fairly self-explanatory: in each chapter, a different therapist discusses an unusual case, ranging from the family who mummified the mom so they could keep her around to the woman who pretended to hang herself in order to check her husband's response time. In the introduction, the authors make a point that "this is not a book that glorifies the most bizarre aspects of human behavior." Rather, they're interested in celebrating "the courage of individuals, who, in the face of overwhelming and debilitating problems, manage to overcome these challenges through hard work and continual trust in their professional helpers." But the way it's marketed, and I think the reason many people will read this book, is because of the bizarre and unusual.

Like In the Floyd Archives (see review below), I'm sure this book would be fascinating for people steeped in the world of psychiatry and therapy. At the beginning of each chapter, there's a brief bio of the therapist involved, including a list of all the books he or she has written—frankly, it's pretty boring stuff. The authors state in the introduction that therapists, by the nature of their profession, are "among the most articulate and verbally expressive people around." They spend not a few words going on about how therapists are the "most skilled talkers around," and that the people in this book are the best of that group, so imagine how "intelligent, perceptive, sensitive, and interpersonally effective" these voices will be! So it's a disappointment that the book is written by Kottler and Carlson based on interviews with the therapists, rather than having the therapists write their own stories. At best, there's an extra layer of narration; at worst, Kottler and Carlson simply get in the way—whether or not they are skilled talkers, their writing leaves something to be desired.

If your interest in the unusual cases is greater than your desire for good writing, check this book out. The people really are fascinating, and some of the therapists have creative solutions. Others, though, make you wonder what the client is paying for.

Fed to jonathan's brain | June 25, 2003