Sunday, October 07, 2012

When Yalom Babbled

finished Sept. 4th: When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom

Apparently, this book has a subtitle. The whole thing is When Nietzsche Wept: A Novel of Obsession. Well, as I noted on Goodreads when I first finished it, it didn't strike me as a novel of obsession at all, more like a novel of jabber.

I mean, with a title like When Nietzsche Wept I would expect it to be most if not all of the following: dark, literary, intellectual, profound, edgy, dense.  This book has been on my bookstore radar for years, bought by lots of those black-clad young professionals and artists and dark-side-of-preppy university students. I had high hopes. But, Yalom's novels just really aren't like that at all. They're downright lighthearted.

In fact, as I read When Nietzsche Wept, I began questioning myself as to why Yalom even made it to the top half 13 authors of my A-to-Z literary blog project.  The first book I read of his, when I originally chose him as my 'Y' author, was The Schopnhauer Cure, and it was like this in a lot of ways:  oddly frivolous,  pretty contrived, and in many ways not really a novel at all, but forced into the format of one.

Anyway, it's interesting to learn about Nietzsche and the psychologist Dr. Joseph Breuer whom Nietzsche apparently never met but whom Yalom imagines him meeting for this novel. But then, as with all historical fiction, I find myself wondering how much of the imaginings are just distortions that would never have happened but exist only in the author's mind but are now going to be forever associated in MY mind with these real historical figures (and this is why I hate historical fiction, duh.)

But if this book hadn't skipped along quickly like the trifle it is, it would have annoyed me. I am definitely not passing Yalom on to the semi-finals. His books remind me how interesting these philosophers are -- I mean, I totally get his love for/admiration of/desire to write about cool people in Western Philosophy -- but mostly they just make me want to put down his novel and go read the philosophers' actual words, myself.

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