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Wilson, A. (2015). Nine Lives: Nine Case Histories Reflecting the Human Condition by Newell Fischer, Vantage Press, New York City, 2011; 133 pp; $19.95. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(1):254-256.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(1):254-256

Nine Lives: Nine Case Histories Reflecting the Human Condition by Newell Fischer, Vantage Press, New York City, 2011; 133 pp; $19.95

Review by:
Arnold Wilson

This new book by Newell Fischer is a short (133 pages) but concise journey into the lives of nine of his patients. It is an excellent introduction to psychoanalysis for graduate students, residents, early career analysts, and even the lay public. Fischer has chosen to present a psychoanalytic account of the kinds of patients analysts encounter in our practices - no mythological readily analyzable and compliant patients to be found here. The reader is drawn into Fischer's depictions of the inner world of individuals with sexual compulsions, panic attacks, sociopathy, deeply schizoidal human aversiveness, psychotic erotomania, postpartum depression, suicidality, sadomasochism, and anorexia nervosa. There is also a case (Dawn) detailing some difficulties of a Jewish analyst at work with an African-American woman patient, in which Fischer through self analysis comes to recognize his motivated wish to be “color-blind” in a way which leads to circumscribed areas of analyzing kept away from necessary scrutiny.

Fischer is particularly adroit at laying out the ways in which each patient makes use of him, rendering so very inadequate formulaic explanations of how analytic therapy works. He well understands that readers think in terms of cases (Forrester, 1996) and not treatment algorithms. His finger is always on what it takes for each patient to progress, and he has no axe to grind with one theory or another to prove its superiority. His voice is that of the pragmatic clinician, and his intention is to make available to an interested public what really goes on in his office.

There are couch-based analytic cases reported (Joan and Henry) which tend to resemble other cases reported in the analytic literature. Our literature has long been charactorized by too many descriptions of successful treatments of analyzable patients. A very difficult child (Frankie) seen as a 7 year old is described; follow-up with Frankie as an adult reveals he is well functioning and indeed plans to attend medical school and perhaps become a psychoanalyst.

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