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Seeing things

Rosemary Dinnage, 4 December 1980

The Story of Ruth 
by Morton Schatzman.
Duckworth, 306 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 7156 1504 1
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... One would suspect several influences at work in this choice of treatment: the arguments of R.D. Laing (guiding spirit of the Arbours Association) that ‘mad’ experiences can be valuable; the currently popular Gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls, in which the patient is encouraged to act out histrionically the personages of his dreams and fantasies; an account ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... was relieved.’ The layman will surely go along with Charles Rycroft on the psychiatrist R.D. Laing, when he says: ‘It is difficult to take seriously the idea that we are all traumatised by separation from “our intra-uterine twin, lover, rival, double”, the placenta.’ The judiciary is a profession whose members traditionally correct and rebuke ...


Alison Light: Raphael Samuel, 2 February 2017

... Green Road. It came on a stand and could be wheeled discreetly to one side. Draped with a dark red velvet curtain, it lent a theatrical air to viewings. At first I’d sit alone in the late evenings watching TV while Raphael was working at his desk or on the phone (the two often went together). Gradually, like a nervous animal approaching water, he came to ...

‘I’m not signing’

Mike Jay: Franco Basaglia, 8 September 2016

The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care 
by John Foot.
Verso, 404 pp., £20, August 2015, 978 1 78168 926 4
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... he finds no evidence for the persistent rumour that a translation was nixed by R.D. Laing; this may be an extrapolation from Laing’s role in suppressing a British edition of Zone of the Interior, Clancy Sigal’s dirt-dishing roman à clef of his experiences at the centre ...

Fiction and the Poverty of Theory

John Sutherland, 20 November 1986

News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... among others, E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Perry Anderson, Robin Blackburn, R.D. Laing, and the personnel of the New Statesman, would be to create another kind of absent centre. Caute solves this problem by resort to the teasing deceits of the Disraelian political romance. That is, he daringly hints at real persons with his characterisations ...

Wizard Contrivances

Jon Day: Will Self, 27 September 2012

by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 397 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 1 4088 2014 8
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... are kept in the background. As Umbrella begins he has recently left the Concept House, an R.D. Laing-inspired anti-psychiatry commune in Willesden in which he guided patients on LSD-fuelled trips of self-discovery, for Friern Hospital, a hulking Victorian mental asylum in a North London suburb, which was formerly known as Colney Hatch Lunatic ...

Her Father’s Dotter

Terry Eagleton: The life of Lucia Joyce, 22 July 2004

Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake 
by Carol Loeb Shloss.
Bloomsbury, 560 pp., £20, June 2004, 0 7475 7033 7
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... everyone’s awareness by throwing a chair at Nora.’ In the Romantic-libertarian theory of R.D. Laing, the 1960s anti-psychiatry guru, the schizophrenic (which is how Lucia soon came to be labelled) is simply the family scapegoat, the victim who becomes the hapless focus of domestic psychological violence. This, certainly, is how Lucia’s champions saw the ...

Home Stretch

John Sutherland: David Storey, 17 September 1998

A Serious Man 
by David Storey.
Cape, 359 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 9780224051583
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by David Storey.
Vintage, 555 pp., £6.99, June 1998, 0 09 927408 6
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... been stolen by an ‘infamous existentialist’ Scot, suspiciously reminiscent of the late R.D. Laing. It announces to the world his (Fenchurch’s) discovery of the ‘Pentadic Theory’ – namely, that we have five conflicting selves. Orthodox psychiatry is unimpressed. Fenchurch has been sectioned and locked up for five years in the bin, half that time ...

I’m hip. I live in New York

Theo Tait: Leonard Michaels, 3 March 2016

by Leonard Michaels.
Daunt Books, 131 pp., £9.99, June 2015, 978 1 907970 55 9
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... for instance, that it was easier to ignore Sylvia’s mental illness because ‘in those days R.D. Laing and others sang praises to the condition of being nuts.’ Interspersed with the main narrative are journal entries, which closely resemble those in Michaels’s collected diaries, Time out of Mind (1999). These tend to be raw and apparently ...

E Bada!

Rye Dag Holmboe: What Isou Did to Language, 21 July 2022

Speaking East: The Strange and Enchanted Life of Isidore Isou 
by Andrew Hussey.
Reaktion, 328 pp., £20, September 2021, 978 1 78914 492 5
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... of being a Nazi. Isou took advantage of the vogue for anti-psychiatry. He had read Artaud and R.D. Laing, and tried to formalise his own criticisms in texts such as Antonin Artaud torturé par les psychiatres (1970) and Manifeste pour une nouvelle psychopathologie et une nouvelle psychothérapie (1971). He even tried to put his ideas into practice as a ...

In the bright autumn of my senescence

Christopher Hitchens, 6 January 1994

In the Heat of the Struggle: Twenty-Five Years of ‘Socialist Worker’ 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 288 pp., £12.50, November 1993, 0 906224 94 2
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Why You Should Join the Socialists 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 70 pp., £1.90, November 1993, 0 906224 80 2
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... Victor Serge, he was soon to become better known for his clinical evisceration of the work of R.D. Laing, and for his hilariously mordant critique of Herbert Marcuse. (This is important, because a feature of the IS, as it called itself, was that it was inoculated against certain Sixties fads in advance.) Over the next several months we continued to meet and ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... a judgment of criminal guilt,’ Trombley writes. The comment has the fashionable aura of R.D. Laing, Thomas Szasz and Michel Foucault, but although he makes vague gestures at all three, Trombley does not seem to comprehend the implications of their arguments. For what follows from his comparison of madness and crime is the conclusion that Virginia Woolf ...


Colin McGinn, 23 January 1986

The man who mistook his wife for a hat 
by Oliver Sacks.
Duckworth, 233 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7156 2067 3
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... being. This is a very familiar plaint which was most vigorously urged in the Sixties by R.D. Laing and others in respect of medically-based psychiatry. It is part of the general question of the relationship between the psychological sciences and the kind of understanding of people we find in novelists and biographers. This is a very hard question. The ...

Gloomy Pageant

Jeremy Harding: Britain Comma Now, 31 July 2014

Mammon’s Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now 
by David Marquand.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £20, May 2014, 978 1 84614 672 5
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... they were entitled to get.’ The defiant style of the 1960s, epitomised for Marquand by R.D. Laing and Herbert Marcuse, was also a ‘hyper-individualistic’, romanticised worship of choice by jejune students and lotus-eaters wearing paisley. ‘Slowly, incompletely, but unmistakably, today’s hedonistic and relativist culture elbowed aside the old ...

Bad News

Iain Sinclair, 6 December 1990

by John Farrand.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 239 pp., $40, June 1990, 1 55670 134 9
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Weather Watch 
by Dick File.
Fourth Estate, 299 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 1 872180 12 4
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Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment 
edited by J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums.
Cambridge, 365 pp., £40, September 1990, 9780521403603
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Crop Circles: The Latest Evidence 
by Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews.
Bloomsbury, 80 pp., £5.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0843 7
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The Stumbling Block, Its Index 
by B. Catling.
Book Works, £22, October 1990, 9781870699051
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... the Demystification of Violence at the Roundhouse. His sobering report had Allen Ginsberg and R.D. Laing, Trocchi, Michael X, and other disparate luminaries of the International Times devouring every word. We wanted to hear the worst, the spidery voice of doom: the prophetic voice of the Ancient of Days, Blake’s voice hallucinated in Harlem. We wanted to ...

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