Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and The Power of Seeing by Damion Searls

The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and The Power of SeeingTitle: The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and The Power of Seeing
Author: Damion Searls
Publisher/Publication Date: Crown; February 21, 2017
Genre: Nonfiction; Phsychology; History; Biography 
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Hardcover

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The captivating, untold story of Hermann Rorschach and his famous inkblot test, which has shaped our view of human personality and become a fixture in popular culture...

In 1917, working alone in a remote Swiss asylum, psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach devised an experiment to probe the human mind. For years he had grappled with the theories of Freud and Jung while also absorbing the aesthetic of a new generation of modern artists. He had come to believe that who we are is less a matter of what we say, as Freud thought, than what we see. Rorschach himself was a visual artist, and his test, a set of ten carefully designed inkblots, quickly made its way to America, where it took on a life of its own. Co-opted by the military after Pearl Harbor, it was a fixture at the Nuremberg trials and in the jungles of Vietnam. It became an advertising staple, a clich√© in Hollywood and journalism, and an inspiration to everyone from Andy Warhol to Jay-Z. The test was also given to millions of defendants, job applicants, parents in custody battles, workers applying for jobs, and people suffering from mental illness—or simply trying to understand themselves better. And it is still used today.

Damion Searls draws on unpublished letters and diaries, and a cache of previously unknown interviews with Rorschach’s family, friends, and colleagues, to tell the unlikely story of the test’s creation, its controversial reinvention, and its remarkable endurance—and what it all reveals about the power of perception. Elegant and original, The Inkblots shines a light on the twentieth century’s most visionary synthesis of art and science.

My Thoughts:

Whew. It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, and The Inkblots is the latest. The Inkblots by Damion Searls was a fascinating look at the life of Herman 
Rorschach and his contribution to psychology: the inkblots. I’ve heard of the inkblots before. But then, who hasn’t? As the book states, Rorschach inkblots are widely known, but I haven’t encountered much talk about the person who actually created them. So, I was really excited to get this book for review.

Whenever I tackled a nonfiction book, I always go into it with the understanding that it’ll probably take me a little longer to read. The Inkblots isn’t that long but it is still a hefty book. Despite how wordy this book was, it was still a thought-provoking read that was worth the time I spent on it. I enjoy reading about things, but I also like when I find a book that details the life of the person who created that said thing. In that way, The Inkblots excels.

There were a lot of details about Rorschach's life. It started from the time when he was a child, explained what his home life was like and followed him through the years as he went to school, gained experience, and started a family. This book partly focused on his character. There were a lot of pages spent explaining how he went about his approach to psychology. For me, one of the more interesting sections of this book was the part where 
Rorschach was actually developing his inkblots, and the early process of his method of administering the test to patients. Another interesting part took place after his death, when the inkblots were being developed into a usable test.

I think that was my favorite part of this book: getting to see how 
Rorschach's experiences led to the creation of his inkblots, and how they developed into what they are today after his death. There were a few minor details that I disliked, but other than that, the rest was good.

So yeah, the Inkblots will probably be my last nonfiction read for a while. I’m going to spend some time reading fiction for now, but nevertheless, The Inkblots was a great book.

Rating 4/5

This copy of the book was provided by Blogging for Books (Publisher) for this review, thank you!

About the author...

Damion Searls has written for Harper's, n+1, and The Paris Review, and had translated the work of authors including Rainer Maria Rilke, Marcel Proust, and five Nobel Prize winners. He has been the recipient of the Guggenheim NEA, and Cullman Center Fellowship...

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