Book Reviews -- in a Time of Fallen Heroes: The Re-Creation of Masculinity by R. William Betcher and William S. Pollack

Article excerpt

R. WILLIAM BETCHER AND WILLIAM S. POLLACK: In a Time of Fallen Heroes: The Re-creation of Masculinity. Atheneum, New York, 1993, xii + 288 pp., $22.50.

In a time of changing sexual mores and gender roles, a thoughtful assessment of the problems facing the male animal in his search for sexual maturity and a meaningful sense of masculine identity is most welcome. The authors accomplish their task in a graceful fashion that will be much appreciated by counselors and therapists, and other readers.

Both authors hold appointments at the Harvard Medical School and are on the staff at the McLean Hospital, Betcher as a psychiatrist and Pollack as a psychologist. They see the male bastion of power, influence, status, and strength as under assault from feminist onslaughts, and the former heroes--their laurel-leaf crowns akilter--as suffering the strains and stresses of the battle. In this arena of conflict and conquest, every advance of the feminine spells a defeat and narcissistic wound for the embattled defenders of masculine prerogatives. Shades of Thurber's war between men and women!

In the course of encompassing this tragic drama, they cover a fair amount of territory. The chapters develop a series of topics, including the struggle for a meaningful sense of masculine identity, problems of isolation and intimacy, relationships with women (the special woman who fulfills the passion of an idealized dream--mother, wife, lover, or something else), relationships with other men (fathers and friends, homoerotic and homophobic), problems of seeking authority and respect to avoid the perils of vulnerability and shame, the demands of duty and work, the role of sports in masculine development and self-esteem, the place of love and lust in the world of masculine ideals and goals, and finally the issues faced by the men who have children, for whom the challenges and demands of fatherhood pose particular conflicts and tensions. A final chapter seeks to assess the virtues and vulnerabilities of the contemporary male and makes recommendations for facilitating the integrations and transformations that the authors believe could lead to happier and more fulfilled lives and more satisfying relationships with the important women in their lives. …