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Robbins, A. (2014). Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man: Psychoanalysis and Masculinity, by Donald Moss, Routledge Books, London and New York, 2012, 150 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 42(2):331-332.

(2014). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 42(2):331-332

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man: Psychoanalysis and Masculinity, by Donald Moss, Routledge Books, London and New York, 2012, 150 pp.

Review by:
Arnold Robbins, M.D.

Donald Moss's Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man is the author's highly individualistic attempt to explore topics of the never ending speculation of what men are and aren't. Not at all comprehensive in its overview, it is rather highly selective in its viewing points and especially so in its rather unique areas of observation. I do not myself know Moss or his work, but his observational platform seems to be the rather classical Freudian drive/defense theories of human endeavor and development, and further formed by extensive clinical work and experience.

He takes as his starting point the difficulty we humans have defining ourselves and forming a stable identity, especially a masculine one, and how shaky and obscure are the concepts of what is masculine. The book is largely based on clinical vignettes from Moss's patients, used as examples to make his points. In addition there are highly personal snapshots of his own life in relation to masculinity and its vicissitudes. Indeed masculinity and its vicissitudes might well have been the sub-topic of the book and is certainly a brief way of saying what the book is about.

Moss's investigation is highly individualistic and piecemeal, with no attempt at a comprehensive or final stance on this very difficult topic. Rather the book features snapshots of men living life and attempting to come to terms with their selves as men. Within this context Moss searches for understanding in Freud, and Freud's own vicissitudes in his view of men and women. Among the search tools Moss uses are several rather schizoid men searching but overwhelmed, transsexuals coping with their destinies and choices, homophobia and its relation to being and identity, violence and its affective results in men, and his own personal battle with frailty and illness.

And through it all Moss's writing can be poetic and moving as well as obscure and heavily layered. It is not an easy book to read and not for the faint of heart. His view is largely dim and dark, with little to reduce or elevate our struggles and pain. While pleasure and body need are seen as the goal in the lives of those he writes about, it is clear that it will rarely if ever be reached. The life of these people is seen pessimistically as a kind of wearing down and bewilderment. And love is not a feature of these lives, nor does it redeem or restore.

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