Baur, Susan (Whiting) 1940-
BAUR, Susan (Whiting) 1940-
PERSONAL: Born January 22, 1940, in New York, NY; daughter of John I. H. (an art museum director) and Louise (a teacher; maiden name, Chase) Baur; married John Schlee (a marine geologist), December, 1969 (divorced, 1984); children: Scottland Hubbard, Louisa. Education: Vassar College, A.B., 1961; attended Florida Atlantic University, 1967, and Duke University, 1968; Harvard University, A.L.M., 1987; Boston College, Ph.D., 1990. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Running, art.
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 1620, North Falmouth, MA 02556. Offıce—Thorne Clinic, P.O. Box 989, Pocasset, MA 02559. Agent—Miriam Altshuler, Russell & Volkening, 50 West 29th St., New York, NY 10001.
CAREER: Binghamton Sun Bulletin, Binghamton, NY, journalist, 1963-65; Palm Beach Post-Times, Palm Beach, FL, journalist, 1967; Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA, lecturer in marine literature, 1975-79; Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, guest investigator, beginning 1969; Thorne Clinic, Pocasset, MA, psychologist, 1989—. Also worked as a computer programmer and editor.
MEMBER: American Psychological Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pfizer Award, best book in the history of science, History of Science Society, 1974, for The Edge of an Unfamiliar World: A History of Oceanography.
(Under name Susan Schlee) The Edge of an Unfamiliar World: A History of Oceanography, Dutton (New York, NY), 1973, published as A History of Oceanography: The Edge of an Unfinished World, Robert Hale (London, England), 1975.
(Under name Susan Schlee) On Almost Any Wind: The Saga of the Oceanographic Research Vessel "Atlantis," Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1978.
Hypochondria: Woeful Imaginings, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1988.
The Dinosaur Man: Tales of Madness and Enchantment from the Back Ward, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Confiding: A Psychotherapist and Her Patients Search for Stories to Live By, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
The Intimate Hour: Love and Sex in Psychotherapy, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
The Love of Your Life: What You Learn from the Most Passionate Relationship of Your Life, Sourcebooks (Naperville, IL), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including Natural History, Wilson Quarterly, Oceans, Sailing, and Smithsonian, sometimes under the name Susan Schlee.
Baur's works have been translated into Spanish and German.
SIDELIGHTS: In Hypochondria: Woeful Imaginings Susan Baur discusses the condition in which healthy people believe they are suffering from physical ailments. Although reasons for the development of hypochondria vary, the author suggests that one of its primary causes lies in society's tendency to offer sympathy to people who are physically ill over those who might be suffering emotionally or mentally. For example, a person involved in a detrimental marriage might feel safer complaining about arthritis to gain consolation rather than risk revealing the truth about his or her dissatisfaction with the relationship. In Baur's opinion many children are conditioned to become hypochondriacs because they are exposed to habitual complainers and learn that they can receive love and attention for feigning illness. Although some reviewers complained that the book fails to explore the biological reasons for hypochondria to the fullest extent, several critics acknowledged that Baur adeptly explores a number of psychological and sociological issues surrounding the condition.
Throughout her book Baur investigates medical history, providing information about some of the most extreme hypochondriacs and offering anecdotes about figures such as biologist Charles Darwin and singer Enrico Caruso who regularly feared physical illness. Several reviewers felt that Hypochondria benefits from the inclusion of quotations from primary-source materials such as the journals of biographer James Boswell, who was obsessed with death and dying. Some commentators, however, felt that Baur's work was not comprehensive. Alex Raksin, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, remarked, "Viewed as an incomplete survey of hypochondria . . . this book is singular, intelligent and entertaining." Commenting on Baur's content and style, Mike Oppenheim of the New York Times Book Review remarked that "despite its impressive scholarship, the book is gracefully written and accessible."
In The Dinosaur Man: Tales of Madness and Enchantment from the Back Ward Baur continues her exploration of psychological phenomena, deriving material from her experiences working with schizophrenic patients. The author focuses on delusions—irrational beliefs held by individuals, usually about themselves and their past experiences. In the author's view, delusions provide mentally unstable people with a sense of identity and a way to cope with their fragmented lives. In this respect they serve a similar function to memories for sane individuals who use episodes from the past to define themselves. At the center of the book is the story of the "Dinosaur Man," who convinces himself that he was once a powerful "Nicodemosauras." Baur also includes encounters with a person who thinks that his mother was once transformed into a bee with huge eyes and a patient who cries when he believes he hears his children telling him to behave. Terri Apter of the New York Times Book Review remarked that despite Baur's professional status "what comes through most clearly is not the voice of the psychologist but the many voices of the lovable, comic, tormented patients, who relentlessly try to construct a self out of a mind that continually sabotages itself."
In Confiding: A Psychotherapist and Her Patients Search for Stories to Live By, Baur presents a "brilliant and passionate examination of how the stories we tell about ourselves shape our lives," wrote Erika Taylor in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Baur argues that our choice of the personal anecdotes we share with others indicate the kind of person we believe ourselves to be. "The qualities that make Confiding so effective," Taylor wrote, "come largely from [Baur's] unconventional approach to therapy and from the beauty of the writing itself."
In The Intimate Hour: Love and Sex in Psychotherapy, Baur explores the quesiton of romantic liaisons within the doctor-patient relationship. Citing actual cases of love affairs between psychiatrists and their patients, Baur argues that a kind of love—"like the pure intimacy of courtly love"—can arise from psychotherapy and be positive and ethical. "Baur," noted Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times, "is good at characterizing case histories."
Baur once told CA: "The more I study storytelling, both from a writer's and a psychologist's point of view, the more convinced I become that the continual trading and refining of tales—from the common conversation to the heroic presentation—is the root metaphor for knowing. We think by talking. As [twentieth-century philosopher and author] Hannah Arendt maintained, individuals mature by talking to each other, and groups of people become communities in the same way. As I see it, the goal is to become inclusive. The richest stories, like the richest lives and richest communities, incorporate the most diverse and unexpected viewpoints. Much of my writing tries to capture the hidden gifts of the profoundly mentally ill and sneak them back into the community for the benefit of all."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Baur, Susan, The Intimate Hour: Love and Sex in Psychotherapy, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
Booklist, December 15, 1996, p. 700.
Journal of Psychiatry and Law, spring, 1998, Marc Hillbrand, review of The Intimate Hour: Love and Sex in Psychotherapy, pp. 79-80.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1994, p. 512.
Lancet, April 5, 1997, p. 1034.
Library Journal, April 15, 1988, p. 85; May 15, 1994, p. 86; December, 1996, p. 124; November 15, 2002, Douglas C. Lord, review of The Love of Your Life: What You Learn from the Most Passionate Relationship of Your Life, p. 90.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 27, 1988, Alex Raskin, review of Hypochondria: Woeful Imaginings, p. 4; September 11, 1994, Erika Taylor, review of Confiding: A Psychotherapist and Her Patients, p. 14.
New Republic, December 26, 1988, p. 28.
New York Times, April 26, 1988; January 20, 1997, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Intimate Hour: Love and Sex in Psychotherapy, p. C18.
New York Times Book Review, March 27, 1988, Mike Oppenheim, review of Hypochondria; p. 39; September 1, 1991, Terri Apter, review of The Dinosaur Man: Tales of Madness and Enchantment from the Back Ward, p. 7; January 19, 1997.
People, August 29, 1988, p. 81.
Publishers Weekly, March 18, 1988, p. 66; May 2, 1994, p. 292; November 11, 1996, p. 65.
Times Literary Supplement, November 18, 1988, p. 1273.*