by Adam Phillips,
ISBN: 0679442642

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Brief Reviews
by Robin Roger

At 216 words, this review is longer than many of the aphorisms coined by Adam Phillips in Monogamy (Pantheon, 144 pages, $17 paper), his collection of thoughts on the coupled condition. Aphorists are intellectual stripteasers-they should be called brain-teasers-flashing glittering ideas and moving on. Phillips exposes monogamy without actually depicting it, tantalizing us with glimpses of monogamy from unusual angles. Ever the psychoanalyst, Phillips reveals the triangles lurking in every couple, whether it be husband and wife or parent and child, proving that pure dyads do not really exist. We all begin as an intruder into a couple, an excluded third in our parents' private union. We enter family life with the illusion that we are our mother's exclusive partner and mistake our father as the outsider. By the time we find our own partner, these formative triangles are installed in our psyches, crowding our couples with a phantom cast. The rest of the struggle is what Phillips ponders in his cryptic pensées. With a gift for paradox-"nobody has ever been excluded from feeling left out"-Phillips provokes a lot of thought with a minimum of words, leaving the reader to work out the rest. It is as if the white space on each page is the analyst's attentive silence, allowing us to struggle on our own.

Robin Roger


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