Often referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis," Sigmund Freud championed the "talking cure" and charted the human unconscious. But though Freud compared himself to Copernicus and Darwin, his history as a physician is problematic. Historians have determined that Freud often misrepresented the course and outcome of his treatments--so that the facts would match his theories. Today Freud's legacy is in dispute, his commentators polarized into two camps: one of defenders; the other, fierce detractors. Peter D. Kramer, himself a practicing psychiatrist and a leading national authority on mental health, offers a new take on this controversial figure, one both critical and sympathetic. He recognizes that although much of Freud's thought is now archaic, the discipline he invented has become an inescapable part of our culture, transforming the way we see ourselves. Freud was a myth-maker, a storyteller, a writer whose books will survive among the classics of our literature. The result of Kramer's inquiry is nothing less than a new standard history of Freud by a modern master of his thought.
My biggest problem with it is probably the most obvious one: the subtitle. I think that a better match would have been "savant or charlatan?" to lift a (quoted) phrase from the book itself. But it's still a good biography that shows what Freud was really like.... and based on the information presented, I myself would have to say (judge) that he was (at least) a little bit of both.
Sometimes the biographer gets a little difficult about Freud being Part of the Canon (TM), but this didn't rise to too aggravating of a level for me. And it was a little lucky, since contemporary students of medicine, psychology, etc. seem a little reluctant to talk about this guy (since it's obvious how he can be the profession's embarrassing uncle), but I couldn't help but be interested, at least from the biographical point-of-view, about what the story was, since he's certainly a influence on the popular imagination (Freud: the bobble-head), if nothing else. So it was nice to get a version of his life that showed a little bit of what he was really like and why his reputation has declined, without becoming the armchair admiral about the past hero, which is always the temptation when dealing with one of these guys.
So it was one of those biographies that was valuable in inverse proportion to its being a hagiography-- where approving of the biographer is quite distinct from the subject-- but in that context I found it to be a passable success.