It should come as no surprise that I am a fan of Ralph Steadman.  I think my affection for Hunter S Thompson would make that clear.  Steadman gained much notoriety for his illustrations in Thompson's books.  It should be noted though that Steadman is an accomplished artist in his own right.  He is a noted wine and whiskey aficionado and has done numerous books on his own including an illustration of Alice in Wonderland.


One of his books that piqued my interest was Sigmund Freud.  I have some familiarity with Freud's work.  The prospect of Steadman providing artwork to a book on Freud had my imagination swimming.  I was thinking that this was something that could get very sick and twisted.  I instantly decided I needed to obtain this volume.


I swiftly acted to add this book to my personal library.  It is a nice addition to the library although it wasn't quite what I expected.  It is actually a fairly serious stab at Freud.  Steadman put aside most of his twisted nature to view Freud in a serious manner.  The irony is that he was mostly tackling Freud's book on jokes in this book.  Steadman took different important events in Freud's life and turned them into jokes.  He was using Freud's book Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious as a basis.


I do wish I had read the Freud book first because it would have added to my appreciation for the book.  Steadman will draw comparisons to unification jokes, displacement jokes, double meaning jokes etc.  I have the Freud book laying around somewhere.  I do feel compelled to find it and read it.  I think that reading Freud's book would have put me in a better position to understand some of the references in the book. 


Steadman covers Freud's year in the army, his courting of Martha Bernays, the International Psychology Congress in Weimar and other important events.  One joke is based on Freud's visit to Rome.  Steadman deals with the ambivalence Freud felt.  Freud greatly admired Roman civilization but also viewed the Romans as being the early instigators of anti-Semitism.  One joke was based on the Vatican.  When asked how many people work at the Vatican, he responded “about half of them.”  When a former student Charles Maylan wrote a book on Freud, Freud's response was “I taught him how to speak and now all he does is swear.”


Steadman's illustrations are very good.  He uses more subtlety in this book.  The lines are a lot less jagged.  There is far less of the hallucinogenic quality of his works for Thompson.   This is kind of interesting since Freud was noted for having a fondness for cocaine.  I was thinking that Steadman might play up that angle.


Many of the drawings here are pretty straightforward.  I was a bit surprised by this.  I had been expecting Steadman to really go off on many of Freud's sexual theories.  That could have allowed for a pretty twisted tome.  Now Steadman does address the Oedipal Complex and anal retentiveness and a few other of the theories but it is done in a more sterile manner.  This is not what I expected but I did greatly enjoy reading this book. 


I was reminded of things about Freud that I already knew.  I also learned a few new things about him.  This is hardly a book for a scholarly student.  I think it will be a great joy for readers who enjoy Freud's writing.  Steadman himself puts things in perspective by writing that he doesn't think you'll learn much about the nature of jokes but if you can still enjoy a good joke, it will be a painless way to learn about this magnificent thinker.


This book is recommended for fans of both Freud and Steadman.  If you only know Steadman's work through Hunter Thompson books, this may provide you with a newfound appreciation for his work.  He is quite a talented artist in his own right.  This book wasn't exactly what I was expecting but I was still delighted by its content.  It is a large size book but only about 120 pages.  It is a great book to leave on the coffee table.  Impress your friends with your appreciation of both psychology and art--however twisted that may be.         



Author's Notes/Comments: 

a review of a nice little artbook "celebrating" a pioneer in psychology.

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