Synopses & Reviews
Minding What Matters could be considered part of a new genre, the "literary self-help" book. Echoing the style of Kundera and the insights of Jung, with dashes of The God of Small Things and Thoughts Without a Thinker, this timely book alternates between discursive sections on Buddhist topics and engrossing fictional scenes between a psychotherapist and a patient. Sometimes going so far as to directly address the reader, the book shows how of any one of us can intimately explore his or her mind. By encouraging readers to create a stare of inquiry and allowing them to put themselves into hypothetical situations-such as participating in therapy or engaging in Buddhist practices-the book shows us how to discover our inner thoughts and then act on them in positive ways. At once informative and evocative, Minding What Matters offers an entrancing vision of, in Robert Coles's words, "what is possible to do and to be."
"Aspiring to a new genre of 'literary self-help,' this work by psychoanalyst and Buddhist practitioner Langan requires patience. The first sentence ('People do things for different reasons, though sometimes their reasons are the same') will winnow the impatient, who will dismiss this as pretentious, from those who welcome the prospect of an intensely ruminative book. It's uniquely organized, alternating chapters written as essays on aspects of Buddhism and psychology with italicized vignettes that describe the relationship between a fictional analyst and his patient. Then follows a section of quasi-footnotes 'sources and associations' that are difficult to correlate with the text because they are marked by asterisks, unnumbered and often woolly ('This play of shifting forms is quite the opposite of the cri de guerre of the British Victorian poet William Ernest Henley....'). Langan's free-associative writing style is appropriate for a therapy session, but becomes a little idiosyncratic in a book, as though the reader has been handed a first draft. 'I can choose to assimilate you. (Resistance is futile.)' could be clever, but such allusive exposition slides past those who don't recognize the slogan of the Borg, the villainous assimilators of Star Trek. Langan is ambitious, but his literary aspirations sometimes obscure rather than illuminate his meaning. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Robert Langan, PhD, is a Fellow, Training and Supervising Analyst, and Director of the Center for Applied Psychoanalysis at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City, where he maintains a private psychotherapeutic practice. His interest in Buddhism began in college and led to the Peace Corps in Nepal, where he developed a fascination with Tibetan culture. Torn between East and West, he pursued doctoral and post-doctoral training in Western psychology only to find it led him once again, but without conflict, to Buddhism. He is a longtime member of the Jewel Heart sangha and the Insight Meditation Society.
Robert Coles is the author of The Spiritual Life of Children. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.