Tuesday, June 11, 2013

William B. Ober M. D. Boswell’s Clap & Other Essays (1979)

     William B. Ober M. D. Boswell’s Clap & Other Essays (1979) Ober fancies himself an astute judge of literature, but his actual strength is diagnosis, especially of physical ailments. His psychological diagnoses are IMO less reliable, as he takes Freudianism’s claim to scientific rigour and validity for granted, which results in somewhat absurd certainties about the presence and effects of castration anxieties, etc. His essays are mildly interesting, and most are too long. The medical details don’t add much, and in several cases (including the title essay) nothing at all, to one’s understanding or appreciation of the author’s work.
     Ober’s purely literary remarks are helpful insofar as they show his thorough reading of the texts, and reminded me of what I’d read (or not read) and liked or not liked about them. But with the exception of his remarks on Chekhov, none of the essays persuaded me to take another (or first) look at the works themselves. I liked his essay about Socrates death best. He contrasts the facts of hemlock poisoning with what’s reported by Plato, and he concludes that Plato was inventing a myth. That so many readers have taken Plato’s tale for a factual report should remind us that ignorance causes a lot of misreading. **

No comments: