A Perfect Stillness

A Perfect Stillness : Conversations from the Unconscious

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It's a unique challenge to write fictional accounts of psychotherapy when the author is also a practicing psychologist. Our everyday encounters take place in more contexts than we are aware of, calling for images and descriptions that never conform to a simple appreciation of me, you, ours, distilling and hiding explanations, illuminating wish and need.

These are not disguised stories about actual persons in therapy; they are stories of imagined people, often collective tributes representing all the therapy with women who have been violated, also men in search of meaning, love, culture and family, or finding meaning in relationships when the past has led to pain. A story emerges in a language of intimate construction. Some of these tales are not concerned with therapy; the connecting theme is always the richness of subjective life and our influence on each other's deepest regions, which can occur within the first moments of meeting.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 154 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 9mm | 236g
  • English
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 1732663122
  • 9781732663121

Review quote

"The story 'Path of the Ground Birds' quietly meditates upon the efficacy of intervening in the dark course of human events. Here, notes of hope, futility and yearnings deferred echo like the songs of endangered warblers as a surgeon and his naturalist wife ponder whether their best efforts at improving the world are good enough."

--Adam Johnson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award

"In A Perfect Stillness: Conversations from the Unconscious, James Cooper brings his psychologist's exquisitely sensitive ear and his poet's lyrical voice to these tales of human encounters, and the inner lives that fuel them, whether they take place in a psychotherapist's office, a family kitchen in the shadows of the refrigerator light, or on the road. Combining elements of good old fashioned edge of your seat story telling with the mysteries of magical realism, Cooper creates an unforgettable world of characters that are in equal measure poignant, funny, vulnerable, smart--and most of all human."

--Anthony Bass, Ph.D., Editor in Chief, Psychoanalytic Dialogues,
The International Journal of Relational Perspectives

"In A Perfect Stillness, James Cooper's fine and graceful collection of fictional short stories, he gathers tales often narrated by that most circumspect and smooth-surfaced of professionals, a psychotherapist--as Cooper is. In these stories, the world is rich with images and secrets, the smooth skin peeled away to reveal the beautiful and complicated human beneath. So, in "A Perfect Stillness," a psychotherapist is mesmerized by an artists' model. Gradually, we see the therapy work to release the fears but we also see the controlled sensuality of the work, how the psychologist both gives in to the feelings the patient causes, and uses these dynamics to help her recover. The stories in the collection are rich with imagery: birds, trees, water, music. In "A Final Case For Elizabeth Mars, the therapist is befuddled by his response to a patient and thinks of an orchestra tuning up when they wander in to find their chairs, and how this relates to his own process of discovery. He also realizes he needs to see his aging mentor, the astonishing Elizabeth Mars. In this and in other stories, something amazing takes form. James Cooper's characters linger and notice details. What he so masterfully shows us in these stories is the other side of the therapist: the living, beating human heart."

-- Sue Staats, Coordinator, Sacramento Stories on Stage

"Regarding When Moon and Sun Were Close (first titled Strangers on a Cliff). "The language and tone of this story is captivating, and is often as breathtaking as are the vivid descriptions of this setting. J.L. Cooper risks shifting points of view, and elevates a traveler's encounter from the expected to something significant by exposing between the two how much we assume when so little could possibly be known."

--Eugenia Kim, Author of The Kinship of Secrets and The Calligrapher's Daughter

Regarding The Couple That May Still Live on Maple Street: "We liked this snapshot of a couple's therapy session. The story is fundamentally understated, calm in the midst of anger and contemplative. A really lovely piece of writing."

--Keir Pratt, fiction editor, Structo. U.K.
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