A scintillatingly unusual approach to the history of sex and attitudes to sex in the twentieth century from a very promising new cultural historian.
This is a book about the prehistory of perhaps the key revolution of the twentieth century – the Sexual Revolution which broke out, first, in the USA. It traces the history of an idea that is born in the crucible of the new thinking of Freud and Jung, twisted into interesting, sometimes preposterous, new shapes by their disciples Reich, Marcuse and Perls (all of them German Jews who fled the Nazis and fetched up in America in mid-century), and then finds widespread expression in the new liberties announced and hungrily devoured by the ringleaders of the Sixties – Mailer, Ginsberg, Goodman et al – and their legion of happy followers.
Christopher Turner, a very interesting young writer and thinker (& husband to the excellent Gaby Wood of the Observer), is proposing nothing short of a fascinatingly oblique new history of sex and sexuality in the twentieth century that will trace the roots of the freedoms so many in the American-led West enjoy to the hilt without a thought of how they became licensed so to do...
A fascinating debut from an interesting young British writer who can be seen going on to be a star in the Alain de Botton-to-Ben Rogers corner of the bookshop.
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"How [Reich] went from being one of the inspirational figures of the psychoanalytic movement, as a clinician, a teacher and a writer, to being a cult figure on the margins of 1960s America is an extraordinary story, and Turner tells it with subtlety and panache. Turner has interviewed many people who knew Reich well, and he casts his net wide, setting Reich's quirks and crimes in their historical context so that a portrait of the man emerges rather than a diagnosis." --Adam Phillips, "The London Review of Books "" Very amusing and intelligent . . . This book will change the way in which we employ that increasingly lazy phrase 'thinking outside the box.'" --Christopher Hitchens, "The New York Times Book Review ""Christopher Turner's smart, thorough, wholly engaging book takes the reader on a tragicomic adventure of the history of an idea that became an object: Wilhelm Reich's orgone box. What began in Vienna with Sigmund Freud's belief that the sexually repressive mores of society can make people sick evolved into a utopian, quasi-scientific fantasy that spread through Europe as fascism rose and eventually crossed the ocean to the United States, where it would play a crucial role in what is now called the sexual revolution. Turner's measured account, bolstered by interviews with various characters close to the action, is a study in charisma, belief, and mental contagions that infected an entire culture, and which are still with us today." --Siri Hustvedt, author of "The Summer Without Men ""Turner has created a masterful synthesis of social history, psychosexual theory, obsession, and farce. The narrative is a madcap parade: Freud and Einstein, Leon Trotsky and Mabel Dodge, the Red Scare and UFOs, Ginsberg and Burroughs, Bellow and Mailer, Dwight MacDonald and James Baldwin, Woody Allen and Kurt Cobain--and Wilhelm Reich's quixotic hunt for the ideal orgasm." --David Friend, Creative Development Editor at "Vanity""Fair, " and author of "WatAbout the Author:
Christopher Turner first came across the orgasmatron whilst doing anthropological fieldwork at infamously progressive Summerhill School (Reich persuaded Neill to build an Orgone Accumulator and to test it on his pupils). He went on to complete a PhD – on the cultural history of disgust – at the University of London. He teaches at the London Consortium, a PhD programme in the Humanities at Birkbeck College, London, and is a regular contributor to the LRB, Tate Magazine, the Guardian and Sight and Sound. For the academic year 2003/4, he was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University. He's also a documentary filmmaker.
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