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W. Stokeley

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Average - Freud, Fraud and Flawed

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-09-2020

Freud is an interesting guy and, certainly, a significant intellect.

However that didn’t prevent him from the future of his illusion. In An autobiographical study, we hear freuds biography of his professional career. Few personal details can be gleaned here. He goes on to enlighten the listener how he came to study hysteria through hypnosis (caution!) and eventually ‘discovered’ a ‘science’ of psychoanalysis through observation (extreme caution); a science by his own admission which is an ‘art’ and leads patients to project their issues on to the therapist - often falling in love with, hating, or most probably both - the unlucky analyst.

If this seems highly unscientific, it’s because it is - psychoanalysis (sorry Freud) seems likely to be consigned to the garbage bin of history. Indeed he’s been much deried - Nabokov thought it was a fraud; Richard Fyneman was excoriating on the topic.

What is impressive about Freud despite his ecenticities was the fact that he “brought the unconscious to the public consciousness” (I claim to have invented that phrase, although it might be a borrowing).

What is lamentable about this study is how weird it seems. Asserting that children are sexual beings goes greatly against the grain of modern thought, and possibly takes it into some disturbing territory. The obsession with sexual impulse does seem more like Queen Gertrudes’ assertion in Hamlet that “the lady doth protest too much.” As to looking to the Greek classics for the Oedipal and Electra complexes - again to modern ears sounds very strange, and more than a little contrived.

What surprised me most about the autobiography was how much time Freud spent defending himself from his critics. He was certainly aware of all I have raised during his lifetime (other than his later detractors) - and spends much of the book going on about how wrong they are.

As to the “future of an illusion.” This is a considered treatise in favour the scientific method, and religious skepticism. It’s the best bit of the book. But weighing in at the end, as it does, it had already lost me.

The narration isn’t bad, the German pronunciations sound solid. But the drudge through the autobiography had extinguished the desire to continue. I think you would be far better in just reading the essay (it’s not long).

Overall this was a disappointment - the fault being the material, not the rendition - and I’m afraid it’s another one I will be returning.

Great content, terrible narration.

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-07-2020

Firstly let me say the actual book version of this is probably one of the most highlighted I have on kindle. Alan bloom has a lot to say and unlike his contemporary conservative cohorts he can really express himself, and draws deeply from history and philosophy to make his points. He decries moral relativism and postmodernism that’s have taken over the University and in that analysis he seems largely correct.

However. This is a terrible audiobook. The narration is monotonous, and dry. The only thing going for it was the accurate rendition of French in it. The whole tone of the narrator is one of excoriation, when I’m sure that wasn’t the intent of Bloom.

But more than that, there is a slight, about 2 second, echo on the recording which leads to you rehearing everything the narrator is saying. It is this that made this book pass the point of unbareability for me. I will be returning it.

Well, if objectionably argued.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-01-2020

Hitchens is eloquent and persuasive. It’s why I’m interested in what he has to say. He does not, however reflect my (or most probably the ‘average’ person’s views). From his one time alignment to the radical left he now seems to my ears to side with the most reactionary conservatism he probably would have once despised himself.

Yet opinions change. His has, he’s admitted it - and he’s entitled to do it. One of the benefits of living in a free society is the Socratic method, the dialectical. Put simply, its good to hear the other sides’ views. As Peter’s erudite brother once put it, even if you disagree with the other side in an argument, if both parties leave subtly and perhaps imperceptibly changed - if it is a good one.

One of the reasons this book is persuasive is it’s rootedness in political, cultural and literary history. Hitchens has the vantage when arguing from these points as he is not only well read and articulate, but his grasp of these traditions is almost certainly better than those he decries.

But decries he does, and you better get used to it if you’re settling in for this one. The ideological left wing canon of speech and thought so readily accepted in daily discourse is attacked, at length. Everything from accepting LBQT communities, support for the drug addicted, the liberation of sexuality and egalitarianism is torn down in this book as Hitchens asserts himself as a bastion of quite conservative Christian morality.

One of this things that most puzzles me here is his repeatedly asserted acceptance of a class structure, monarchy and aristocracy. Hitchens seems to believe in a way that surely must confound his younger self that these things are inherently good, and should command respect. Not so. He concludes with a panegyric to the democratic tradition of England. Yet surely these archaic institutions are the opposite of that, institutions that demand deference without the slightest requirement for competence. And one we are supposed to accept merely because they are our ‘betters?’ Unconvincing.

One thing I would love to ask him is how much he feels has changed is he wrote this book. The book seems to fear the United Kingdom falling into the European super state all the more - a reality which looks less and less likely (although is still arguable in all but name). He also predicts the permanent end of Tory rule, another failed prophecy although I suspect he would not labels the current incarnation of the conservatives as ‘true’ conservatives anyway.

A final word is about his performance. Stellar. His articulation, diction and expressivity are all first rate. You can hear his sneers leaping into your ears. It is a wonderful listen.

In conclusion, I doubt you will agree with him - I certainly didn’t - but it is still a worthy addition to your audible library. I would love to hear his opinions on what is next for the country. He may be wrong, but chances are good that we will learn something from it.

1 person found this helpful

The Best.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-09-2019

What can I say? It’s a timeless classic, brilliantly performed and genuinely funnier for repeat listens when some subtleties become more apparent. I’ve listened to it in various forms for 20 years and it’s not lost it’s charm.

1 person found this helpful

Tour De Force but rebalance your speakers

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-02-2018

Firstly I want to say an objective analysis of this book for me is impossible. I came to Hitchens through YouTube I think and vía Dawkins and Carl Sagan. I had been an agnostic before - but he hooked me on the atheist bent. When I finished god is not great, hitch 22 was the next step for me.

I owe hitch a great personal debt. In 2017 he revolutionised my life, leading me away from the self improvement tomes which were pretty much the only books I was reading - into a new world of critical thought, philosophy (though I had dabbled with this before), literature, politics and poetry.

I am now a WH Auden fan. I listen to classical music, and Gilbert and Sullivan. I have read David Hume, Lucretius, Marx and more. My to read list is populated by Hitch’s suggestions. Partially due to his influence, and the influence of others in my life i went back to university and started studying my masters degree. I met my girlfriend there. My politics started shifting from the traditional conservative area that I had associated with to more to the left, although I suspect that in his later years hitch would have not made too much of this. Crucially hitch has taught me to rediscover my critical faculties which have laid dormant for over 10 years and my love of the written word. He taught me the dialectic, the didactic and critical tenacity I owe him everything for my own personal renaissance.

If he can do that for me, imagine what he can do for you. This book tells you about the events, the politics and crucially the books that moulded him. Grasp the lessons that you can. It merits a second go, though I’m likely to do it with the hard copy next time to actually grasp more of the lessons to be squeezed out of it.

This is the only book I’ve ever awarded five stars. It should be part of your library.

One caveat - hitch’s baritone is so lovely, but it is so bassy the reverberations made it a difficult listen on a set of Bose speakers. I think the producers could’ve done a slightly better job with the balancing of the audio in what is otherwise a fantastic book.

8 people found this helpful

Brilliant.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-01-2018

This was a deeply personal account of what WH Auden did for Alexander McCall Smith and I suspect “what WH Auden did for me” would have been a better title, but would be less likely to sell books. I’m also pleased he tacitly credits plagiarising Alain de Botton’s ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’ for the title as it spares me of accusing him of having done so.

This book is excellent. I’m fairly new to Auden and have come to him in my early 30s. It was great to get a perspective on him from another person and Smith (who I’ve never heard of before I bought this book on a whim) is so steeped in Auden it’s impossible not to be impressed, and a little humbled, by his level of fan-boy-ism.

On the way you will learn a lot about the poet and some of the impact he has left on the world.

Some of the book engages in, (although the author tries to restrain himself I suspect) braggadocio about his works, how he has met certain scholars and how he has established himself within an (albeit niche) literary elite. There was also an unhelpful diatribe on the impact of religion to the world in general which I suspect says more about what I believe is the author’s evident Christianity than a reasonable treatment of Auden needs. He correlates a decline in global sense of ‘community’ with the decrease in Christian values, and mourns it. He also seems a bit of a technophobe and nostalgic in the same way we think a lot of cantankerous late Middle Aged people are.

That said one cannot fail to be impressed by the depths of the knowledge of the subject matter nor the impact Auden has made on Smith, and indeed can do for you.

My main criticism is it could have done with quoting some more of the poems in full, instead of the tidbits we were given. It could be argued that this encourages you to go read them for yourself, or that longtime Auden fans would find it tedious to have whole poems in here. Coming to it from a novice perspective however I would have appreciated a little more.

A final note about the performance. On hearing neenan’s voice I thought it was dreary and dull and would make this book an absolute slog. On the contrary. It was actually perfect for the tone of the book and suited it down to the ground. I actually re-listened to it for a second time as soon as I’d finished it.