Men Writing Emotionally
Lacey, Hester, The Independent (London, England)
Writing advice books about relationships tends to be what women do. When men do it, you get something else: non-self-help books for people who'd never admit they needed any self- help in the first place. Hester Lacey reports
Writing about relationships tends to be a female province. It's women who churn out those endless volumes on Men Who Won't Commit and the Peter Pan Syndrome and Women Who Love Too Much, etc etc. When male writers dip a toe into these turbulent waters, however, the results can be startlingly different.
Take, for example, Darian Leader, whose latest volume, Promises lovers make when it gets late, is published tomorrow by Faber and Faber (pounds 9.99). Leader is a psychoanalyst, senior lecturer in Psychoanalytic Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, and a founder member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research. His book is likely to end up filed under "Self-Help" on the booksellers' shelves, but, as he says, it is a quite different kettle of fish. For one thing, it does not seek to advise so much as to inform. "Self-help books are terrible," he says, in an office crammed with weighty- looking psychoanalytic volumes, complete with leather couch. "You can get a lot of practical information from certain types of books - books on DIY or gardening. I saw one the other day called How To Do Absolutely Everything. If you are genuinely seeking self-help I would recommend How To Do Absolutely Everything. Then if you are having a huge domestic argument you can either resolve the argument or go away and put some shelves up." The whole concept of self-help is flawed when it comes to people, he says. "It's this notion that human beings and relationships are like DIY projects and can be polished and maintained quite simply." After all, as he points out, the instructions for the average video recorder are more complicated than the average self-help manual. "I can't believe human beings are simpler than machines," he observes. The tools he uses in Promises lovers make when it gets late are case histories and vignettes that range from Freud and Lacan to Sleepless in Seattle, Rebecca and the Spice Girls. He uses these examples to illustrate how people behave and why they do so, keeping his stories very readable and avoiding psycho-jargon. "I want to try to bring psychoanalytic ways of thinking back into popular interest," he explains. "I want to make people aware that this kind of thinking is a rich and interesting tool - I use the case histories to show how psychoanalysis can clarify human suffering. …