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3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  213 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Provocative, observant, and daring, this 1992 novel by one of America’s preeminent lesbian writers and thinkers is being reissued for the Little Sister’s Classics series. Anna O. is a loner in New York, an office temp obsessed with a mysterious woman in white leather; Doc is a post-Freudian psychiatrist who hands out business cards to likely neurotics on street corners, an ...more
Paperback, 225 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Arsenal Pulp Press (first published December 1st 1992)
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A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate BornsteinGravity by Leanne LiebermanNaked in the Promised Land by Lillian FadermanStone Butch Blues by Leslie FeinbergChariots on the Highway by Limor Moyal
Jewish LGBT Books
12th out of 118 books — 25 voters
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Lesbian Jewish fiction
6th out of 21 books — 10 voters

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Robert Beveridge
Sara Schulman, Empathy (Dutton, 1992)

Until roughly twenty minutes before writing this review, I was getting ready to say Empathy was going to be a definite for my best twenty-five reads of 2003 list. Then I read the last three chapters.

The first twenty-seven are brilliant. The story's two main characters are Anna O., a lesbian attempting to get over an old relationship and find someone new, and Doc, a post-Freudian therapist who finds prospective clients by handing out business cards on the stre
Jun 27, 2012 Caleb rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
I'm not really sure what to say about this book... I'm not entirely sure I understand what happened. Empathy certainly has that chaotic, surrealist, psychoanalytic-meltdown style that seems to come from post-modern new york-based literature. I think Arthur Nersesian took notes from Schulman's rapid character deterioration/confusion.

I'm not sad I read it, but I feel like there's a lot going on in this story and it's hard to keep all of the strands in mind at once. It could use a book club discus
Jan 06, 2011 Travis rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
It's hard to summarise this book without spoiling it. It's about Anna and Doc and psychology and...stuff. Really, I have no idea how to summarise, so that will have to do. It's about a woman coming to terms with being a lesbian and what that means to her. (But not in a "coming out" sort of way.)[return][return]Anyway! This is very experimental, with some scenes written in script format, and it took me a little longer to get into than After Delores did, but it did hook me and I ended up really en ...more
Jan 23, 2011 Max rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-fiction, queer
A friend told me this was her favorite book, and the whole time I was reading it I kept thinking "really?!". Honestly, trying to figure out why my friend liked it was the only reason I saw this book through to the end. Well, and the fact that it was so short made this easier. Something about the arty style of the writing felt forced and hard to follow. Dreadful. I haven't read more by this author, and maybe if I am truly desperate for something to read I will give another of her books a try.
Apr 17, 2008 Harper rated it it was ok
I'm still trying to figure out what I think of this. I think there are some undertones that, if intended as some sort of universal narrative (which may or may not be the case) about womanhood/lesbianism, it could be read as anti-trans. i'm just not sure. Nevertheless, the book is funny, and it does have its moments of clarity and insight.
John Miller
Oct 15, 2015 John Miller rated it really liked it
This one's unique and personal, two things I love in a book. There are a few problems that always come with a book like this: indirection and inscrutability. It might not seem like it has much of a plot and it might not make a whole lot of sense at times, simply because it's incredibly idiosyncratic and driven by themes rather than plot per se.

But it's like that deliberately, being a psychological novel at heart. All the action takes place inside the main characters' heads, so a lot of the plot
Jun 21, 2013 Caty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stay tuned for a piece about growing up as the last generation relying on retrogressive Freudianism, library homosexuality, and brief mentions of "Lesbianism"--with the capital L--and how it helped me IDENTIFY with Empathy (in Emily Books)
Jan 09, 2009 Gloss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, feminist
The most extraordinary and accomplished (to date) of Schulman's amazing body of work. This turns Freud's Dora on its ear, inside out, and dresses her in drag, and it's just so sad and powerful, all the way through.
Oct 06, 2013 Abilouise rated it really liked it
Having read this book through once, I immediately need to restart reading it again from the beginning. Thanks for blowing my mind, Sarah Schulman! Also, non-shitty lesbian novels: there are not enough of you.
Ryan Mishap
Nov 09, 2008 Ryan Mishap rated it it was ok
Shelves: novel
Often witty, but the over-all writing isn't that great.
Apr 14, 2014 Morgan rated it it was ok
I had to read this for my LGQ lit class. It was an interesting read. You do need to know a bit about Freud and his case studies to get more out of this story than just the average stumble-upon reader. I could see the big plot twist coming but a lot of people [in my class] didn't until we were discussing things and I mentioned it. They all latched on to that idea henceforth and it ended up being the case. It wasn't much of a surprise for me, but it was still interesting. It's an okay read, again- ...more
John La
Sep 20, 2015 John La rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorite books. I've re-read it multiple times and still find new things in it. Funny and insightful. I laughed out loud repeatedly. this book may not seem funny for those who lack empathy, or who are really young. If not, try again in 10 years.
Apr 08, 2013 Oriana marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
Another amazing-sounding book rec'd by the awesome Emily Books.

Anna O. is a thirtyish New Yorker living in the squalid East Village of 1990. Dead friends and junkies on the sidewalk are a fact of life, and worsening political unrest is threatening to destroy the world as she knows it. Plus, she's always falling for the wrong women. She needs help, and she finds it -- or does she? -- in the person of Doc, a street-corner therapist who charges $10 and only sees each of his patients three times be
Apr 03, 2015 Janna rated it really liked it
This was a very good book. It talked about some pressing matters with humour in them. The last five chapters however made me give the book only four stars, it just got too weird even for me, but then again, this was written in 1992, I wasn't even then :)
J Chritsian
Jan 04, 2016 J Chritsian rated it it was amazing
Shame on me for not taking hold of experimental gay novelist adventures until 2015, learn from my mistake and get on the Sarah Schulman train.
Feb 03, 2014 Liza rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer
Kind of exhausting, like being around a really difficult person, but I actually think Schulman would take that as a compliment? You really get a sense of someone so stuck inside her own head and basically pulling you in there with her. I know some people didn't like that war breakdown towards the end, but it was one of my favorite parts. I loved, too, how this felt so specifically time and place, like so, so, lower east side 1990.
Jan 26, 2009 elissa rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
recommended to me. a little dramatic as the characters seem to do the opposite of what i try to do in my own life: avoid turmoil. a Jewish lesbian who has identity issues and finds herself in a world of, well, herself, trying to identify why she always hangs herself up on, well, herself. a "twist" ending that is the most interesting part of the book which only lasts three pages. i hear this author has better stuff.
Apr 18, 2013 Vicky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lesbians, novel
I feel bad that my focus went elsewhere for the last third or fourth of this book because the prose was very engaging and reminded me of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime which is one of my favorites. I need to reread this sometime because there's this turning point, realization, that made me go, whoaaa, and wish that I had been more attentive all along. My problem, Doc would say, is that I don't listen :(
Apr 18, 2013 Annie rated it it was amazing
really so prescient and certain bits felt especially weird to read during this week of all weeks. Poignant without being cloying. I really didn't expect to love it as much as I did, to be honest. Makes me excited to read more of her work.
Jan 31, 2009 Bronwen rated it liked it
Anna O. is a lesbian living in East Village in 1991 who is ready to give up on love. Doc is an lay therapist who hands out his card on street corners, charges $10 an hour, and allows only 3 sessions.

They talk about listening.
Dec 26, 2008 Ezra rated it liked it
I love the writing in this book about the specific homophobia of liberal Jewish families. this book gets complicated and weird (experimental) at the end and I was very annoyed by where it went.
Dec 23, 2008 Bryn is currently reading it
This book is so good so far. I get excited every time I pick it up.
Jan 23, 2013 Nicole rated it it was ok
I just couldn't get into it, although I really wanted to. Bummer.
Jul 08, 2008 kot rated it liked it
this was kind of weird.
Corinne Blackmer
Jan 08, 2010 Corinne Blackmer rated it it was amazing
Shelley rated it it was ok
Apr 29, 2016
Rebekah Gordon
Rebekah Gordon marked it as to-read
Apr 29, 2016
margeaux marked it as to-read
Apr 29, 2016
Casey Bell
Casey Bell marked it as to-read
Apr 28, 2016
patsy marked it as to-read
Apr 27, 2016
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Sarah Schulman is a longtime AIDS and queer activist, and a cofounder of the MIX Festival and the ACT UP Oral History Project. She is a playwright and the author of seventeen books, including the novels The Mere Future, Shimmer, Rat Bohemia, After Delores, and People in Trouble, as well as nonfiction works such as The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, My American History: ...more
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“It takes two to tango” isn’t even true on the dance floor. One person can do a lot of evil all on his or her own. But the Theory of Mutual Blame arose sometime before Doc was even born. Perhaps it was a takeoff on Freud’s seduction theory or the more generic practice of blaming victims for being alive. Its origins were unclear, but no one had ever had to take full responsibility for their own actions since.” 5 likes
“...people are no longer interested in analysis. They all prefer catharsis now. They all prefer to say that they are helpless and can’t change other people, i.e. the world. Marxism has been replaced by postmodernism. Psychoanalysis has been replaced by twelve-step programs. It was the end of the content.” 4 likes
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