Publishers Weekly: "Yoder... catches the complex interplay of manners and beliefs that such a meeting between greats might have produced."
Date: Jul 17 2007
A fictive meeting between Henry James and Sigmund Freud forms the center of former Washington Post columnist Yoder’s effervescent novel, which follows two short fiction and several nonfiction titles. In 1908, a concerned William James asks Freud to make a trip to Rye, England, to meet with younger brother Henry, whose growing eccentricities worry his Boston-based elder. For his part, the younger James is at first bemused by Freud’s attempts to do a little short-term analysis, but grows more and more engaged as their conversations plunge into questions of unconscious motivations, sexual repression and sublimation. The story of Freud and James is told from the point of view of James’s sophisticated nephew, Horace Briscoe, who, in visiting his uncle, falls in love with a local girl, Agnes Fengallon, and seeks sex and love advice from the great doctor. Further twists ensue when it turns out that Agnes’s father is an Anglican archdeacon militantly opposed to psychoanalysis. Though the dialogue sometimes feels off, Yoder (Telling Others What to Think) catches the complex interplay of manners and beliefs that such a meeting between greats might have produced, and the distancing effects of Horace’s perspective work nicely. Fans of Henry James curious about his notoriously ambiguous sexuality will find Yoder’s speculations intriguing.