25 November 2009

"Between the Bridge and the River" by Craig Ferguson

Between the Bridge and the River
Craig Ferguson
Date of Publication: 15 March 2007
Cover Price: $13.95
329 Pages
ISBN: 0-8118-5819-7

Fraser, a Scottish TV evangelist, leaves for America ahead of a career-destroying scandal.  George, an estranged friend of his from childhood, is dying.  Leon and Saul are transient brothers, trading on the former's charisma and talent and the latter's conniving to break into Hollywood.  Uniting them are a series of events, the full meaning of which is only revealed to the reader.

First-time author Ferguson weaves a fascinating tale of what he calls, "unexpected redemption."  The pace of the novel is brisk, helped along by the brevity of the chapters (some are a mere two pages).  In fact, at times it feels more like a collection of vignettes than a traditional novel; one can easily see Ferguson dashing off a chapter here or there, as his schedule and inspiration permitted.  Given the philosophical and emotional density of some of the passages, it's actually nice to be able to turn the page and find a conveniently placed stopping point.

There are some distractions throughout; Ferguson replaces real-life names of entertainment people and businesses with fictitious knock-offs (for obvious reasons).  It might be impractical to cast either Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts in the novel, but the fictitious name Meg Roberts (an "America's sweetheart" type actress) is a bit of a speed bump in the middle of this story.  In fact, I found myself frequently wishing to get through the passages devoted to Leon and Saul and return to those relating to George and Fraser.  George's self-examination in light of impending death (and his unexpected affair with the alluring and captivating French Claudette) touches on one of the most important themes of them all: potential.  Fraser, meanwhile, has his own epic story (including a recurring dream in which Carl Jung appears to him to analyze what's going on with him).  In many ways, Fraser's story recalls Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and that's never a bad thing.

13 November 2009

"The Psychologist's Book of Self- Tests" by Louis Janda, Ph.D.

The Psychologist's Book of Self-Tests: 25 Love, Sex, Intelligence, Career & Personality Tests - Developed by Professionals toe Reveal the Real You
Louis Janda, Ph.D.
Date of Publication: 1 July 1996
Cover Price: $13.95
230 Pages

I have owned this book for twelve years; it was one of my sign-up selections when I joined Quality Paperback Club (the first time).  As I recall, I needed a seventh title, and this seemed as interesting as half of the other contenders for the spot.  And so it came in the mail and promptly began its decade-plus role of collecting dust that would otherwise have marred my book shelf.

Unlike other books reviewed by me for this blog, this one is somewhat interactive; I actually took twenty-four of the twenty-five tests.  (I passed on "How Do You Love Your Partner?" which seemed too-Cosmo for my taste.)  Anyway, I found that most of the tests re-affirmed things I've always known or been told about myself.  For instance, I placed very highly on the Experience Seeking subset of the Sensation-Seeking test, while placing very low on the Thrill and Adventure Seeking subset.  I have little attraction to things that could be dangerous, yet will quickly volunteer for something novel from which I suspect I might earn an entertaining anecdote.

My favorite anecdote from having taken these tests concerns the very first test, "How Intelligent Are You?"  There are fifty-four questions, and scoring forty-five or higher places one in the "Gifted" percentile.  When I checked my answers, I discovered that I had correctly answered forty-four questions, one shy of the "Gifted" label.  I also discovered that I had, inadvertently, outright skipped question 25, which, upon review, I would have answered correctly.  If you give me credit for that one that I passed over for some reason, then perhaps I have a claim on the "Gifted" label; I, however, accept that my having failed to even see the question constitutes evidence that I'm not a passable borderline case.

These tests are largely taken from various psychologists; Janda himself only claims credit for one of the tests (and he explains that part of the impetus for this was that he was not given permission to use the test he wanted to include).  Janda follows each test with a cursory explanation of its objectives, and the general implications for people who scored at the high and low ends of the results scale.  One thing I appreciated was Janda's honesty in questioning the significance of a few tests.  For instance, the test, "How Rational Is Your View of the World?" he suggests is reflective of a "philosophy," rather than "science," and that it is perhaps less relevant to the theme of the collection than some of the other, more empiric, tests.  (This test might stand out to me, as I bombed it--scoring a 14, placing me well in the lowest category; the only test on which I surprised myself.)

Tests such as these aren't for everyone.  My own wife balks at the very existence of such things, and will not listen to anything I have had to report about my own results--even when they support things she has insisted are true about me!  I suggest that anyone seeking to take these (or similar) tests do so 1) privately and 2) with the understanding that they are merely introductions to various aspects of ourselves.  Janda regularly offers encouragement for improvement in areas in which we do not place well, and just as regularly cautions against being too proud of a low or high score.

If I had one chief complaint (other than the sometimes obnoxious self-scoring system, what with its reverse-scored questions and all), it is that Janda's explanations are too simple.  Referrals to further reading, or more descriptions concerning the included tests, their origins and those of their creators, would help sheath the tests in a veneer of professionalism.  As it stands, this book is accessible to people with little familiarity with psychology but not particularly rewarding for those who have subsequent questions.

My Results
The General Mental Abilities Test -44, placing me in the 85th percentile; a 45 or higher is "gifted"
The Fear of Success Scale - 14, placing me deep into the 85th percentile (10 or higher)
The Assertive Job-Hunting Survey - 57, placing me well within the 15th percentile (90 or lower)
The Impostor Phenomenon Scale - 72, placing me ridiculously high in the 85th percentile (37 or higher)
The Test-Wiseness Test - 29, placing me in the 85th percentile (28 or higher)
The Self-Esteem Inventory - 22, placing me lowly in the 15th percentile (33 or lower)

The Internality, Chance, and Powerful Others Scale

  • Internality - 33, placing me in the middle of the 50th percentile (32-34)
  • Powerful Others - 33, placing me highly in the 85th percentile (25 or higher)
  • Chance - 30, placing me highly in the 85th percentile (23 or higher)

The Rational Behavior Inventory - 14, in the 15th percentile (22 or lower); the only test with which I strongly disagreed

Sensation-Seeking Scale, Form V

  • Thrill and Adventure Seeking - 6, in the 15th percentile (6 or lower)
  • Experience Seeking - 7, in the 85th percentile (7 or higher)
  • Disinhibition - 5, in the 30th percentile (5)
  • Boredom Susceptibility - 5, in the 70th percentile (5)
  • Total - 23, in the 50th percentile (23-25)

The Existential Anxiety Scale - 10, in the 85th percentile (10 or higher)

The Social Interaction Self-Statement Test

  • Positive Thoughts - 48, placing me in the 50th percentile (47-50)
  • Negative Thoughts - 46, placing me in the 50th percentile (44-48)

The Rathus Assertiveness Scale - 5, placing me in the 50th percentile (0-14)

The Interpersonal Dependency Inventory

  • Emotional Reliance on Others - 31, in the 15th percentile (30-34)
  • Lack of Social Self-Confidence - 40, in the 85th percentile (36 or higher)
  • Autonomy - 42, in the 85th percentile (35 or higher)

The Competitive-Cooperative Attitude Scale - 62, in the 30th percentile (60-67)
The Argumentativeness Scale - 15, in the 85th percentile (15 or higher)
The Triangular Love Scale - did not take
Intimacy Attitude Scale, Revised - 163, in the 30th percentile (161-171)
The Romanticism Scale - 89, in the 50th percentile (86-92)
The Self-Report Jealousy Scale - 31, in the 15th percentile (58 or lower)
Positive Feelings Questionnaire - 112, in the 70th percentile (107-112)
The Sexual Knowledge Test - 21, in the 50th percentile (19-21)

The Sexual Attitudes Scale

  • Permissiveness - 64, in the 50th percentile (60-72)
  • Sexual Practices - 35, in the 85th percentile (35 or higher)
  • Communion - 41, in the 70th percentile (41-44)
  • Instrumentality - 12, in the 15th percentile (9-12)

The Sexual Anxiety Inventory - 14, in the 85th percentile (14 or higher)
The Sensuality Scale - 25, in the 50th percentile (23-25)
The Relationship Assessment Scale - 35, in the 85th percentile (35 or higher)