BOOKS: PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF

A PAINFULLY VERBOSE NOVEL ABOUT THE TALKING CURE

On and off for a period of nearly 15 years, a prominent psychiatrist treats a young neurotic named Gene Kenny. After much painstaking analysis, Dr. Rafael Neruda sees what he believes to be a triumph of his therapeutic skills: Gene is no longer a passive wimp but rather a rising computer whiz with a wife, a son and--somewhat to the shrink's discomfort--a beautiful mistress. After their last session, Neruda notes, "I have to admit a surge of vanity: I was proud of what I had wrought." A bit later he hears from his former patient, "You cured me. I'm not a...

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