Friday, January 22, 2016

the last book I ever read (David Orr's The Road Not Taken, excerpt six)

from The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong by David Orr:

This is in part traceable to a single book. In 1978, M. Scott Peck published The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, a guide to reforming oneself that drew heavily on Peck’s career as a psychiatrist and his somewhat unconventional religious views. (His final book, published in 2005, was a memoir about exorcisms.) The Road Less Traveled languished for several years, but by the early eighties, word of mouth and Peck’s assiduous courting of reviewers had turned it into one of the foundational texts of modern self-help. In a 2012 article, the Christian Science Monitor declared it to be among the ten greatest self-improvement books ever written (placing it in company with those of Benjamin Franklin and Dale Carnegie), and according to Peck’s website, The Road Less Traveled “has sold over 7 million copies and remained on the New York Times Best Seller List longer than any other paperback book.” As with many self-help guides, the book itself is a kind of olive loaf composed of corn-fed common sense (“The process of listening to children differs depending on the age of the child”) liberally seasoned with nuggets of kookiness (“Moreover, were I ever to have a case in which I concluded after careful and judicious consideration that my patient’s spiritual growth would be substantially furthered by our having sexual relations, I would proceed to have them”).

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