A Review by Miles Beller
Gilda Frantz is a Jungian analyst. She is smart. She is wise. She is clever. She is charismatic. And, yes, she is delightful.
That she is my friend has little bearing on any of this. Truth is, these truths are inarguable, sure facts as certain as May following April and that up is the opposite of down. One would sooner win an argument disputing direction of the Earth's rotation or how many commandants those original tablets held than be foolish enough to question Gilda’s qualities. I am quite certain had Cole Porter known Gilda Frantz, he surely would have included her in "You're the Top."
But this is a book review I've been told, a book review in a Jungian journal that ought to address the interests of Dr. Jung's latter-day disciples. Well, that's all well and good. However, Gilda Frantz is too fine a writer to measure by any one singular yardstick, by any one predetermined standard of a solitary scientific pursuit. Consequently, there will be no juggling of Jungian argot or terminology in this review, no inside baseball references to shadows and self and the unconscious that gets collected. These considerations are best left to assaying textbook collaborations or the output of academic apparatchiks. You see, Ms. Frantz is first and foremost a writer, a writer who sets down words with precision and purpose and in a way that radiates poetry’s shine. "Loneliness is a preparation, not just a separation," Ms. Frantz tells us on page 56 in the article “On the Meaning of Loneliness.” Can it be said any more precisely, any more finely?
Ms. Frantz never lets content override the craft of writing, never allows jargon to jostle the transcendent interplay of words. The girl can't help it. As Ms. Frantz shows us, to write well is to set things down with an innate sensitivity to what you are experiencing and expressing, to intrinsically know how to arrange words, how to place them in a certain order so they speak with authority, grace, conviction, and courage. Gilda Frantz is keenly aware that to write well is to know this world and the one inside of you intimately and truly, and yet be able to embrace the very opposite of what you know at a moment's calling. She knows, too, that good writing can contradict itself, be uncertain, be everywhere at once, that good writing sometimes is quiet, faraway, and distant. Her writing underscores that no rules, no codebook get you there. You do it by yourself for yourself, alone and away from those things you buy or consume. What satisfaction there is comes after stepping away from the writing, and even this is fleeting, transitory.
Gilda Frantz makes manifest the certainty that good writing is an end in itself, a way of seeing by explaining and explaining by seeing. Things are turned around, upside down, run in reverse. But the writer is never really aware of doing any of this. Gertrude Stein put it this way: that the only moment that matters in writing is the pen striking the paper. What happens before and after does not count. Gilda Frantz knows all this by heart because it is in her heart. She comes by it naturally, writing well intrinsic to who she is.
Graduate programs will tell you that given enough money and time these things can be acquired, not unlike learning to ride a bicycle or getting the knack of typing quickly. But they cannot. No amount of study or repeated application can teach you to write well. These things come from everything you have been through and from things you are not even aware of. Drills or exercise, appropriation or subordination, as Gilda Frantz knows, cannot instill these things. Hemingway said good writing is not interior design but architecture. Gilda Frantz builds what she writes with an inner understanding, a natural affinity for what is inherently true. "Agelessness is the ability to live with passion until the moment we die," Ms. Frantz tells us on page 164 of “Being Ageless: The Very Soul of Beauty,” and two pages later she adds, "Agelessness involves living with the awareness of death as a natural sweetener of life." Again, the architecture of these observations is acuity of thought compressed into an expansive arc of highlights and penumbras. The tensor strength of the ideas comes from few words that pack much. Reading Gilda Frantz, we are reminded that when you write well, it is as if you are there but not there, are letting other forces also determine the course. Mastery and escape, T. S. Elliot said of what it takes to break free from the gravitational pull of influence and accommodation, of the writer’s will to ask new questions rather than proffer old answers.
Reading Gilda Frantz is to experience this, to turn off that big, crowded highway onto new roads of expectation and creation. You cannot follow a street map to arrive at good writing, cannot strategize your way to rendering something that will last after you are gone. Impulse, intuition, happy accidents, and keeping open and aware get you there, or at the very least point you in a promising direction.
If you haven’t gotten the idea by now, let me be blunt. Gilda Frantz's Sea Glass is a multifaceted collection of writing refracting language and life in a new and sustaining way. It is kaleidoscopic and it is prismatic, giving off a deep spectrum of brightness, reflecting a multitude of angles and inquiries. Unquestionably it deserves an honored berth on the psychology of self. Yet it is writing that transcends classification or genre, writing that offers abiding bounty to the reader of the literary memoir and the personal essay. It is writing you can come back to and find something new every time.
Gilda Frantz has a writer's soul, telling us things in such a way that we see them for ourselves. William Faulkner was once asked by a student about the secret to writing well. Go home and write, the Nobel laureate offered. Through the years Gilda Frantz has made evident this impeccable advice. When I read her, I am in the care of a serious and skilled writer. "The flame is fate," Ms. Frantz informs us on page 31, after a passage concerning alchemy. Instantly the point ignites, recognition's immediate light bursting bright.
There are no shortcuts to writing well, no cutting of corners, no wham-bam tricks to dazzle and amaze. No Houdinis slip out of shackles to command kudos and currency. Time ticks on and what is lasting and true survives, speaking to us now as forcefully as it did when first made. As Gilda Frantz makes clear in her first collection, writing well is a life sentence. It is intimately tied to who you are, this in concert with an inborn instinct for words and how best to assemble them. In “Being Ageless: The Very Soul of Beauty,” the author avows, "When we are old our skin becomes more transparent, and so must we" (p. 179). How I wish I had written that.
As is true of Ms. Frantz's writing, I'm going to keep this trim and vigorous. Just how gifted a writer is Gilda Frantz? Let me count the ways. She is nimble and she is resourceful, able to leap complex subjects in an artful bound. She is challenging and she is reflective, surprising, enlivening, elevating, and captivating. Gilda Frantz is self-aware and yet ever searching, knowing yet able to embrace opposites. There are many things I could say about Gilda Frantz and her book, Sea Glass. However, the essential is this: Sea Glass is accomplished literature, delivering an author at the height of her powers, a Jungian analyst who knows her stuff but above all else is a writer of enduring vision and feeling.—Miles Beller
About the reviewerMiles Beller is an editorial board member of Psychological Perspectives and has written for The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, and Life magazine. Beller was appointed the Joan Nordell Fellow at Harvard University's Houghton Library while a Scholar in Residence at Cabot House. His novel Dream of Venus (Or Living Pictures), set in the 1939 New York World's Fair, was recommended by Publisher's Weekly as "challenging the distinction between fiction and fact," and Book Magazine called it “a risky and ingenious experiment that makes the novel like the fairgrounds.”
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Now in her mid-eighties, Gilda Frantz shares with us what she has learned from life and from being a Jungian analyst. She has written a feeling, intuitive wise woman’s shorter version of her own Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Personal insights links essays on subjects drawn from her life and work, there is poignancy and an affirmation of indomitable spirit in her musings. She knows firsthand about difficult childhoods, early widowhood, aging, death of a beloved grandchild, and closeness to the end of life. She knows about suffering and the creativity and soul growth that can go hand in hand. These are themes in her own life and in her observations of others. Sea Glass is an apt metaphor for this book—to discover why requires reading it.
—Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. author of Goddesses in Everywoman,
Goddesses in Older Women, and Close to the Bone.
You could be listening to the storyteller by the fire, or to your favorite aunt at the kitchen table—the one who always makes you laugh—so vital and engaging is the narrative voice in Sea Glass. In fact, you are reading the gathered writings of Gilda Frantz, a beloved Jungian elder in the classical tradition. Frantz is on intimate terms with the gods and their myths. She has personal experience of alchemy, individuation, dreams, and the creative process, all of which she describes in accessible and lively language. Sea Glass sparkles with gems, including Frantz’ interview with the film director Fellini and her amplification of the story of Pinocchio. Like the sea glass for which she names her book, Frantz has had a difficult life, been thrown about on waves of fortune, battered on the rocks of childhood poverty, parental divorce, early widowhood, and the death of a son and granddaughter. Her wit and wisdom has been polished to a fine glow. She is eloquent in her reflections on the meaning of suffering. Sea Glass is most luminous when addressing the toughest topics—loneliness, grief, abandonment, aging, and death. It is a comfort and an inspiration—strong medicine for the soul.
—Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Author of The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way and The Motherline: Every Woman’s Journey to Find Her Female Roots
Others are Writing to Gilda Frantz about Sea Glass
Others are Writing to Gilda Frantz about Sea Glass
I am about half way through your book. It is very powerful. Your understanding of how people and life operate seems kind of like an xray view (or an MRI!) of what I generally experience as chaos and confusion. It is simultaneously unsettling, validating, and liberating to begin to understand my own experience from the perspective that you share in your essays. Certain passages feel especially powerful and relevant to me, and too much to thoroughly process. So I want to take small bites and digest them. But stonger that that desire is the pull to consume more, to discover what else is in there. So I read on, hoping my head, or heart, will not explode.
I could say more, but that's all, for now. Thank you for putting this together and getting it out into the wider world.
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“Jungian analyst Gilda Frantz’s new book, Sea Glass: A Jungian Analyst’s Exploration of Suffering and Individuation, is a rare gem. Part memoir, part application of depth psychology to everyday life, it takes the reader on a journey that begins with Frantz’s family history as a child of the Depression who was abandoned by her father and raised by a mother with the spirit of a wandering Gypsy. As the tale unfolds, she marries not only a prominent Jungian analyst but the budding Jungian community in Los Angeles, and eventually becomes an analyst herself. As she grows into womanhood and motherhood, she encounters the dark side of life in ways that few of us do. With a heroic and deeply impassioned attitude she demonstrates in a living way the alchemical principle that wisdom is the refined, distilled byproduct of suffering. With chapter titles like “Growing Up Poor in Los Angeles,” “Birth’s Cruel Secret,” “On the Meaning of Loneliness,” “Dreams and Sudden Death,” and “Redemption,” she fathoms in rich detail what it means to struggle with the opposites within oneself. The warm, inviting tone of Frantz’s writing has the quality of an intimate fireside chat, with reminiscences of days long gone and intimations of eternal mysteries waiting for us. This book is a pleasure to read.”
—Michael Gellert, Jungian analyst and author of Modern Mysticism, The Fate of America, and The Way of the Small.
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We have surely met through Amrita and one of her Shantimayi gatherings. But that is beside the point.
I am reading your wonderful wonderful book which I bought at Amrita's urging. Thank goodness. I am in one of those quiet periods when small ailments force us blessedly to cancel, rest and be quiet. . . a perfect time to read.
I can hardly find words to tell you how much I love your book and find it so deeply meaningful. I dont have a jungian background so this is a beautiful window through a woman's voice and one of a similar culture.
I fear when I go the source and/or Marie von Franz, there won’t be the same resonance.
I just finished the chapters on gender/sexuality and am stunned by their jaw-dropping tenderness and beauty . . .and the wisdom of native Americans.
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I got home late last night to find Sea Glass at my doorstep.
After reading the introduction and first chapter before going to bed and cried. What a beautiful expression of your life. I can't wait to continue on the journey and will savor each page.
Thank you for listening to that voice and sharing your life and wisdom with the world.
—Shawnee Isaac Smith
"Sea Glass" is a senior Jungian Analyst's "story of suffering and individuation,” a series of essays on a variety of topics—all of interest. As a fellow member of the birth class of 1926, growing up in '30's Los Angeles, I was touched by Gilda’s open, honest, forthright expositions from one who indeed suffered multiple losses of mother, husband, son and grandchild. For me the most affecting essays were the interviews with film maker F. Fellini (imagined?) and Jungian scholar and "Red Book" editor, Stephen Martin. Her paper on "Being Ageless: The Very Soul of Beauty" was splendid, as were those on the Jungian ancestors. Written simply and with an open heart, this book will be enjoyed by colleagues and lay persons alike.
—Joseph Marvin Spiegelman, author of Jungian Analysts: Their Vision and Vulnerabilites; Catholicism and Jungian Psychology; The Divine Waba (Within, Among, Between and Around): A Jungian Exploration of Spiritual Paths (The Jung on the Hudson Book Series); Co-author of Secrets of Western Tantra: The Sexuality of the Middle Path
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I love your writing."
—Jacqueline Zeller Levine, Ph.D. Psychotherapist/Jungian Analyst
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—Eugene Sun Koh, Graduate Student in Psychology
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"I am happy to tell you that your book, Sea Glass, arrived via UPS three days ago. I met its arrival with the excitement of one waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon!
This is a profoundly important book, Gilda. I am captivated. I try putting this book down, but it refuses settle!
Your writing, chapter after chapter is deeply stirring. It touches every true fiber of my being, inviting me back into intimate contact with those parts of myself that have always benefitted from deepening attention. What a gift to any discerning individual invested in the individuation process, and what a valuable contribution to life-giving literature.
I congratulate you on this unique and fulfilling human endeavor. I just want to hug you."
Amazon Reviews About Sea Glass
This author’s writing comes from the grit of a childhood lived during the depths of the Great Depression. . .
November 13, 2014
Listening to Gilda Frantz interweave her life experiences with the concepts of C. G. Jung is an experience unlike any memoir or psychology book you may have read. This author’s writing comes from the grit of a childhood lived during the depths of the Great Depression, where her young identity was shaped by multiple households on both coasts. When she titles one article “The Greyhound Path to Individuation,” she means it quite literally, as more than once she traversed the continental USA as a very young child, all by herself, on, yes, a Greyhound bus.
What is unique about this book is the flawless way in which life experience of all kinds is interwoven with her exploration of inner life through the lens of Jung’s many concepts. This is one rare book in which the concepts were LIVED before they were ever thought. Frantz’s sea glass washed up on the shores of her elder years shining bright, gems all.
I was so moved by the insight. . .
November 16, 2014
I was so moved by the insight and accessibility of this book. It was a personal story of loss and suffering turning into compassion and wisdom. Gilda Frantz has written her first book at 87. That alone makes her book worth reading. I have two copies - one to read and another to lend. Finding sea glass as I walk along the ocean has taken on a new meaning.
A Warm Wise Book by a Warm Wise Woman
November 16, 2014
Gilda Frantz’s "Sea Glass" teaches the reader the core of Jungian psychology in the best way possible: by following how it evolved in her own life. We follow Gilda's journey from childhood to old age. As the sub-title tells us, hers is a journey of individuation through suffering . . . but also through joy. Her final words in this book aptly sum up that journey:
"When I entered the world of Jung and analysis, I was 23 and newly married. Reading Jung's words now, in my eighth decade, makes it clear to me that as a young person I served the spirit of the times and not my deepest self. That seems to be the way of the young, but something beckoned inside and I found a way to reach that deeper part of myself.”
It is a joy, an honor
November 23, 2014
It is a joy, an honor, and a profound privilege for me to read this book, this Master Class,
written when Gilda Frantz was 87. This is a book from a wise, brilliant teacher who takes
us on some of her journeys in life that included great losses in her family, even before she
was born, and creating for her "a necessity" to reach far down into her self where she worked
with the concepts of Carl Jung and others who have informed and loved her greatly.
We learn that at the age of 23 this woman married the President of the Los Angeles Jung
Institute who was older than she was. I once saw Dr. Frantz looking across a room at his
wife after over twenty-five years of marriage and he had a huge grin. He winked at me when
he saw me looking at him and smiling at what I felt to be a beautiful love. This being loved is
reflected in how generously Gilda Frantz shares her losses, her suffering, her being burnished
and then turning around at the age of 87 to provide an informed, wise way for us to do our own
work with our lives.
The greatest gift to me is the heart of Gilda Frantz that has the enduring capacity to love and be
greatly loved. This writer, this book, so precious. Thank you, my friend.
—Carol Ann Garrett
Don't miss this book! Sea Glass is a prized companion on the path to discovering meaning in our lives.
November 30, 2014
Gilda Frantz is an extraordinary storyteller, as well as a revered and respected elder in the US and International Jungian communities. In SeaGlass, she gathers poignant and insightful essays, lectures and articles rooted in her rich life experience and her long career as a Jungian analyst and teacher. She masterfully weaves personal reflections on love and loss with a keen and insightful eye for the mysteries of life, always offering her embodied understanding of living a life able to discern the deepest meaning in suffering and the richest insights into life’s mysteries.
Gilda Frantz brings alive Jung's idea of individuation, of living authentically and fulfilling our unique potential, by offering her own experience and insights woven into a tapestry of stories, dreams, fairytales and personal reflections that she shares brilliantly in this beautiful and accessible work. This is a wise and insightful book written from the heart, filled with Eros, and able to bring each reader to depths of understanding by its sheer honesty.
Each article and each chapter is a jewel of great value! SeaGlass is an important companion for each of us, and how lucky we are to have its humor, wise reflection and celebration of the inner life to accompany us on our way. Don’t miss this book