Lipton’s Journal/December 17, 1954/56

From Project Mailer

In the larger sense, this bookThe Fifty Minute-Hour is undoubtedly a failureperhaps a modest book. It does not go nearly far enough. But Doctor Lindner[1] in his failures, is a farvastly more stimulating, entertaining and important writer in his partial achievements, than most psychoanalysts are in their successes. He is one of the very few analysts who, in my opinion, haveare creative potentiality, and this modest book, written properly around the edges of psychoanalysis, is not only fascinating for its stories, but encourages the mind to lose itself upon speculations and journeys.


  1. Robert Lindner (1914-56) was a prominent Baltimore psychoanalyst and writer. After reading Lindner’s 1952 sharp critique of current psychoanalytic practice, Prescription for Rebellion (1952), Mailer wrote Lindner a letter which contained both praise and criticism for Lindner’s ideas, leading to a close friendship over the next four years with many visits and the sharing of work, including Lipton’s. In August 2007, three months before he died, Mailer remembered his first meeting with Lindner, a tall, handsome man with a “rusty, soft moustache.” He was, Mailer said, “a guy I could talk to. His head was fertile, full of ideas. I was full of ideas. We just yakked, which I needed.” They continued their correspondence and for a time talked almost every day on the telephone. Initially drawn together by their disgust with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for Communists in government, and the dull fog of conformity rolling over the country, as well as distaste for President Eisenhower (who Mailer thought was “awful, because he was so middle-of-the road American”), their relationship deepened when they recognized the depth of their ambitions and how they might help each other advance. Both recognized Freud’s genius, but chafed under the yoke of repression, renunciation and compromise that he believed made civilization possible. Lindner was an establishmentarian and worked from within; Mailer was a radical writer with an affinity for the instinctual, a rebel with a cause: the spontaneous expression of feelings, including the violent and the sexual. Kindred spirits, they were joined by their belief that people could transform themselves, become bolder and more creative, and that society itself could be renovated. Both were tremendously ambitious and competitive, but their spheres of interest were adjacent, partially overlapping, and thus Mailer did not have to worry that Lindner would outshine or supplant him as a literary force. They critiqued and encouraged each other’s work, and were candid without being competitive. Lindner was convinced that most of Freud’s theories were sound, and therefore, “it follows that all western society is ‘neurotic,’ since Western man lives by no ‘reality principle’ but according to taboos, totems, myths, legends—beliefs without foundation in truth.” But he parted company with his peers on the merits of getting along by conforming. It has “become axiomatic with our culture and in our society that adjustment is the highest good and the absolute right,” he said. “A way has to be found to unbind the Prometheus within each one of us, to unloose the rebelliousness of our natures, and to give full sway to that instinct upon which our survival as free individuals depends.” Lindner made this same point a variety of ways in several other books: Rebel Without a Cause (1944); Stone Walls and Men (1946); The Fifty-Minute Hour (1955); Must You Conform? (1956). The gist of his argument is simple: “The alternative to adjustment is rebellion.”