Academic Master

Education, English

The Good Story Book Review

The Good Story is written by Arabella Kurtz and J.M. Coetzee; it’s a dialogue between a psychologist who has an interest in literary studies and a novelist who has an intense concern about psychology. Through exchanging their ideas, Coetzee and Kurtz determined how fiction and psychotherapy interact with each other. On the other hand, they also discussed how psychotherapy is different from fiction in respect of external factors affecting psychology. In spite of the tremendous benefits that are gained by merging psychology and literary practice, there are still some challenges in joining the theoretical differences between these two zones.

In this story, the novelist is heavily affected by the experiences of his own life. He is attracted to the dilemma of to what extent memories influence personalities. As one’s life is full of so many memories to include in one story, the writer has to inevitably pick one story that fits his views. At this point, a number of questions arise, such as, is it acceptable to make your own past? What do we like to imagine we are? And to what extent does external truth matter? All these questions are part of memories itself.

In contrast, Coetzee is troubled by the burden of memories. There might be a possibility of repressing the memories that are troubling. But doing so, these repressed memories can cause psychological damage. For example, if a criminal represses the memories of his awful crimes to live a good life, will not this suppression lead to emotional impairment? It exhibits the Coetzee belief in the idea of natural justice. For example, a trope that recurs repeatedly in the plotlines of great fiction – the Mayor of Caster Bridge or the tragedy of Oedipus Rex. This means that bad actions committed in the past can be repressed, but in that case, where is the truth? Truth cannot be denied only to protect one’s psyche. Kurtz places it well, saying that being too self-serving will have fragility and brittleness. Any story of a person must be formed in the best way and should have sufficient truth. There are various kinds of truths, like poetic truth, emotional truth, and objective truth. In some cases, different kinds of truth don’t proliferate. In Kurt’s opinion, therapeutic meetings are creative processes. The psychotherapist must be aware of internal rationalities and the frustrations of patients. Furthermore, memories of the past are constructed and mediated through narratives.

The disagreement between Kurtz and Coetzee is instructive, disclosing that literary fiction and psychotherapy can diverge in this particular way. The point of divergence is actually the truth. For instance, Coetzee believes in external truth. On the contrary, Kurtz is agnostic about any external truth that is not related to narrative fiction, like memory and psychotherapy. The basics of their discrepancy appear to be significant and understandable. Both authors seem to have difficulty in finding common ground to address these questions using mutual terminologies. These disagreements advocate that only an overlap between psychoanalysis and fiction is not enough for concerns of narratives and self. There is a need for settlement between different philosophical grounds.

The exchange of ideas between two minds is a complete joy to read. These two specialists in their own fields are challenging each other and questioning each other’s abilities. The dialogue pieces from Kurtz and Coetzee balance and beautify each other’s statements. Comparing examples from narratives and actuality in a way that has clearly tested the authors to re-evaluate their own thoughts and does the same to the reader as well. On the contrary, this book does not completely cover the basics of psychotherapy. For a reader who is unaware of the theoretical field, this book presents the risk of proposing the discussions as demonstrative of the whole of psychology. This might not be the fault of the good story, but a new book is needed to understand these questions about theoretical psychotherapy. The most extraordinary thing about The Good Story is that it is not only about the opinions of Coetzee and Kurtz but also enlightens the conflicts and ambiguities behind their words.

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