This study challenges the widely-held view that success in personal relationships is the only key to happiness. It argues that we pay far too little attention to some of the other great satisfactions of life - work and creativity. In a series of biographical sketches it demonstrates how many of the creative geniuses of our civilization have been solitary, by temperament or circumstance, and how the capacity to be alone is, even for those who are not creative, a sign of maturity.
A lecturer in psychiatry (Oxford) looks at the psychotherapeutic virtues of solitude. Some of Storr's earlier books have dealt with the psychology of art (The Dynamics of Creation) and aggression (Human Aggression). Here he retains his viewpoint (a sort of liberated Freudianism, with heavy doses of Jung), his theme (the way in which creative people achieve self-integration), and even some favorite case-studies (Franz Kafka, for example). His contention - which runs against the grain of classic psychoanalytic doctrine but will come as no surprise to most folks - is that self-realization can be found through isolation as well as through family and society. Storr marshals a formidable array of psychologists - Gellner, Winnicott, Bowlby, and Gardner among them - to buttress his argument, which veers from insight (his criticisms of Freud) to technical jargon (usually well explained) to platitude ("human beings change and develop as life goes on"; "contemporary Western culture makes the peace of solitude difficult to attain"). More intriguing are his psychobiographies of artists and thinkers - e.g., Beethoven, Kant, Wittgenstein, Beatrix Potter - which demonstrate how isolation can trigger or strenghten creative skills. A humane, sensible, rather drab approach to a largely unexplored subject. While StoWs psychoanalytical spectacles have a nondogmatic, fairly wide field-of-view, much of his analysis will appeal only to specialists. (Kirkus Reviews)