Milton Wexler was among the most unconventional, compelling, and sometimes controversial figures of the golden age of psychoanalysis in America. From Teachers College at Columbia University to the Menninger Foundation in Topeka to the galleries and gilded hills of Hollywood, he traversed the country and the century, pursuing interests ranging from the treatment of schizophrenia to group therapy with artists to advocacy for research on Huntington’s disease. At a time when psychologists and psychoanalysts tended to promote adjustment to society, Wexler increasingly championed creativity and struggle.
The Analyst is an intimate and searching portrait of Milton Wexler, written by his daughter, an acclaimed historian. Alice Wexler illuminates her father’s intense private life and explores how his life and work reveal the broader reaches of Freudian ideas in the United States. She draws on decades of Milton Wexler’s unpublished family and professional correspondence and manuscripts as well as her own interviews, diaries, and memories. Through the lens of Milton Wexler’s friendships, the book offers glimpses into the lives of cultural icons such as Lillian Hellman, Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers), and Frank Gehry. The Analyst is at once a striking account of the arc of an iconoclast’s life, a daughter’s moving meditation on her complex father, and a new window onto on the wider landscape of psychoanalysis and science in the twentieth century.
An astute inquiry into both the life of her father, an accomplished Freudian psychoanalyst, and the author’s own memories, Alice Wexler’s biographical memoir is almost impossible to put down. Ceaselessly fascinating, the story offers rare insight into the mid-twentieth-century clinical practice of “talk therapy,” especially Milton Wexler’s uncommon focus on schizophrenia and his unusually close relationships with clients. With access to an amazing array of sources, including her father’s letters and her own diaries, Alice Wexler fearlessly explores his other passion, his advocacy for research into Huntington’s disease, which took his ex-wife and shaped the lives of their two potentially vulnerable daughters. A skilled biographer, Alice Wexler tells a thoroughly compelling story covering nearly a century of her father’s long and accomplished life.
— Mari Jo Buhle, author of Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis
In this memoir of her father, one of LA’s most prominent analysts, the historian Alice Wexler gives us a revealing and vivid portrait of a time when psychotherapy loomed large in America. Poignant, engrossing, and very smart!
— Alice Echols, author of Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–1975
Weaving the history of her family into a courageous story, Alice Wexler captures her father’s efforts to find a path through psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in the years following World War II. The result is a heart-rending tale that reveals how one family coped with personal loss in the face of dramatic cultural transformation. This is history and biography at its best.
— Alice Kessler-Harris, author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman
This eloquent, tender, and piercing portrait of a father by his daughter offers an intimate perspective on a family profoundly affected by a devastating hereditary condition and a front-row seat to the fraught and kaleidoscopic history of psychotherapy across the twentieth century.
— Alexandra Minna Stern, associate dean for the humanities and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
A probing biography of her father, psychoanalyst Milton Wexler… Wexler’s keen reflections make for a powerful portrait. Readers interested in the history of psychoanalysis will want to check this out.
— Publishers Weekly
About the Author:
Alice Wexler is the author of a two-volume biography of Emma Goldman as well as Mapping Fate: A Memoir of Family, Risk, and Genetic Research (1995) and The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea: Huntington’s and the Making of a Genetic Disease (2008). She is a former Guggenheim fellow and is active on the board of the Hereditary Disease Foundation.