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Harari, M. (1977). Laing, R. D. The facts of life. Allen Lane, London, 1976. Pp. 143. £3.25.. J. Anal. Psychol., 22(3):282-286.

(1977). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 22(3):282-286

Laing, R. D. The facts of life. Allen Lane, London, 1976. Pp. 143. £3.25.

Review by:
Michael Harari

Edited by:
Kenneth Lambert

The publishers introduce The facts of life as ‘a philosophical, personal and biological meditation on the question “Who am I?”’. Not the least fascinating aspect of this moving, upsetting, provoking, many-faceted book, which fairly sizzles with ideas, is the glimpse we are given of who Laing is. There are some vivid and courageously funny bits of early autobiography. We are introduced to an internecine family, (‘If I believed one, I couldn't believe anyone else’) all living on top of each other or just round the corner. The three-roomed flat on the south side of Glasgow, with its outside staircase, is the scene of the epic fight between Old Pa, the paternal grandfather and Dad. Dad eventually kicks Old Pa into the street, drenched with blood and water, and throws his cap after him. ‘Then he stood at the window and waited to see how [Old Pa] would manage to stagger or crawl away. “He held himself up very well,” Dad said, “You've got to hand it to him.”’ And we sample the all-male grammar school where the facts of life are not dirt but filth. A circular distributed to the boys at sixteen asks whether one could, with a good conscience, dance a slow fox-trot, and remember, at the same time, the crucifixion.

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