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Menaker, Daniel

117 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0679422064 / ISBN 13: 9780679422068
Published by Alfred a Knopf Inc, New York, 1998
Used Hardcover
From Rare Book Cellar (Pomona, NY, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Very Good in a Very Good dust jacket. First Edition stated. ; 8vo 8" - 9" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 57152

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Bibliographic Details


Publisher: Alfred a Knopf Inc, New York

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Edition: First Edition; First Printing.

About this title


Jake Singer is an anxious young schoolteacher in New York--barely on speaking terms with his father, recently abandoned by his girlfriend, and heading for a life of compromise and mediocrity at a prestigious New York prep school. Emotionally paralyzed by a case of the vapors, he embarks on a course of psychoanalysis with a maniacal Cuban-Catholic Freudian--Dr. Ernesto Morales, therapist from hell, a man who wields his sarcasm like a machete in the slash-and-burn process he calls interpretation. Morales's accent and tactics are worthy of the Spanish Inquisition, and Jake is just trying to keep him at a distance while he plans his escape. But when he meets socialite widow Allegra Marshall, and finds himself upwardly mobile in the Manhattan of serious money and glamour--as he bounces from the couch to Allegra's bed in the allegedly real world and back again--his whole life begins to take on the eerie, overdetermined quality of an analytic session.

While he struggles to resolve the psychic grudge he bears his parents, Jake becomes embroiled in another parental conflict--of a different kind and with even higher stakes--that may threaten the future of one of Allegra's adopted children. And if from his horizontal vantage point on Morales's couch Jake's world has started to feel suffocatingly predictable, life beyond the couch makes it clear that the world's true organizing principles are chance and accident: that the only indisputable axiom is happenstance.

With wit, grace, and style, Daniel Menaker has written a hilarious novel about coming to terms with life's unruliness, about trying to extract meaning from chaos. Jake gets the Treatment--not just from Morales but from the world--and his notion of unending improvement collides with the possibility of taking pleasure when and where he can, and learning to accept love in place of perfection.    


At 32, Jake Singer is trapped inside not only his own thoughts but also those of his antic, hectoring psychiatrist, a "madman privateer for whom conservative Freudianism was merely a flag of convenience." In between his triweekly skirmishes with the malaprop-slinging Dr. Morales, Jake does manage to carry on: he teaches at Coventry, a New York City private school, and has a small trust fund and an adequate Upper West Side apartment. Yet the protagonist of Daniel Menaker's first novel is increasingly alone. He hasn't seen his doctor father in four years, his mother died when he was six, and his most recent girlfriend left him. "I wasn't so crazy that I didn't know how boring my plight would be to most people," he later realizes. "Even the banality of evil is outstripped by the banality of anxiety neurosis." In fact, there's nothing remotely banal about Jake's anxiety, which Menaker makes both very real and very, very funny.

Though Dr. Morales is dead-on about his patient's inertia, his antic method gives the term critical care (not to mention shrink wrap) new meaning. Indeed, Jake and his doctor's hostilities are both hilarious and deeply painful, skidding between progress and "emotional vivisection." Is the foul-mouthed, foul-minded Morales a sport of psychiatric nature, or is he on the right track? Neither patient nor reader will ever be quite sure, though Jake does come out of his long slump, inheriting the responsibility for his own life--and those of several others.

The Treatment ruffles with comic energy and risky shifts, but also with something increasingly rare in fiction--tenderness. Menaker, unlike his protagonist, seems unafraid of emotion and has a perfect ear for the momentary exchange that simultaneously reveals and conceals all. He can also dish up epigrams with the best of them. Jake turns Wallace Stevens's hieratic pronunciamento into a surprising home truth: "If death is in fact the mother of beauty, she never spends any time with her kids." Any reader interested in the fresh pleasures of language, character, and sharp social landscaping should look no further. The Treatment is both a merry novel about loss and a melancholy fiction about the pleasures of intimacy--sexual, familial, and, of course, therapeutic.

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