Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson Can't Decide on Just One
"Memorable" means many different things to different people. Some books
have haunted me, such as As
Nature Made Him by John Colapinto: an incredible story of medical hubris.
Or The Death of
Innocents by Richard Firstman and Jamie Talan, even more of same. And never
mind scientific hubris, how about hubris on a much larger scale: A
Problem from Hell by Samantha Powers; read and weep.
If "memorable" means "the most interesting" then I would
have to include the amazing story of Kaspar Hauser. If you can't find the English
translation of Feuerbach's book Kaspar Hauser an account of an individual
kept in a dungeon, separated from all communication with the world, from early
childhood to about the age of seventeen, published in Boston in 1833 you can
read my The
Wild Child: The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauser.
Other books are memorable to me because they changed the way I saw things.
Although trained as a psychoanalyst, I knew nothing about the truth of psychiatry
until I read Too Much Anger, Too Many Tears by Janet Gotkin. No contest:
the single best book against psychiatry ever written. Similarly, I could not
think about German science in the same way once I read Murderous
Science by Benno Müller-Hill. If you want to know what prominent German
psychiatrists did to "mental patients" during the Second World War,
read this searing indictment of German science under the Third Reich. As for
life-changing, well, what changes your life more than to realize you have been
eating your friends? Diet
for a New America by John Robbins changed the way I ate and the way I thought
about food forever.
For sheer interest, it is hard to beat The
Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, still, in my opinion,
the best book written about dogs (better, for example, than the popular Dogs
Never Lie about Love). Some books are just deep, like Coetzee's. His chapters
about animals in the novel Elizabeth
Costello... nobody has written about the everyday slaughter of animals
and the Holocaust with such deep conviction (and yes, he is a vegetarian he
told me). And speaking of animals, who would ever have thought that possibly
the best book written about animals in the last ten years comes from the pen
of George Bush's senior speech-writer: Mathew Scully's Dominion?
I have two strange comments: "memorable" to me also means "maddening,"
as in wild, insane and I don't often use that word. My list of hated
books could go on forever, but I cannot omit the awful Yellow
Dog by Martin Amis; the favorite novel of New Zealanders, the only one to
win the booker prize, The
Bone People by Keri Hulme; and all new books by Philip
Roth and Saul
Bellow (I will read anything they write, but loathe the books nonetheless).
You have to know the enemy.
My strangest comment I save for the end: the single best book I have not read
has not yet been written. It is by Ross Cheit, a professor of political science
at Brown, and it will come out eventually. It is about repressed memory and
child sexual abuse. The man is a phenomenon! Watch for it.
About Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Jeffrey Masson has written more than a dozen books, including When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals (with Susan McCarthy), Dogs Never Lie about Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs, and, most recently, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals. A former Sanskrit scholar and Projects Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, he lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, child, two cats, and three dogs.