by Lindsey Grutchfield
Despite the bizarre title, Robert Belenky’s new book “Capt’n Bob’s Adventures in Child Psychology” has no small degree of merit. Granted, the book bears more resemblance to a philosophical treatise than the memoir it was intended to be. All the same, there are nuggets of plainspoken wisdom and fascinating stories in “Capt’n Bob’s Adventures in Child Psychology,” so long as the reader is willing to follow the book where it leads.
The book is, above all, rambling. It starts with an account of Belenky’s family history and ends with excerpts from a journal he kept while traveling in Haiti. Along the way it segues into sweeping descriptions of the author’s views on religion, socialism and poverty, among other matters. Robert Belenky has led a profoundly interesting life, there is little doubt about that. The trouble for “Capt’n Bob’s Adventures in Child Psychology” arises when he lets his philosophy take precedence over his memory in his writing.
Despite a few structural drawbacks, Belenky knows how to write. “Capt’n Bob’s Adventures in Child Psychology” holds the attention of the reader through all parts of the book, even the philosophical bits that, in the hands of a lesser writer, would be hopelessly dry. The result of this writing skill is that a reader who is interested in Belenky’s opinions on Haitian Non-Governmental Organizations or the value of nature in psychology is in for a wonderful time. As for the reader who is not, they may find themselves at least somewhat intrigued, won over by his breezy and entertaining writing style.
Overall, “Capt’n Bob’s Adventures in Child Psychology” is a messy romp through the mind of a very interesting man. The reader cannot help but feel a certain voyeuristic fascination associated with getting such a clear, unrefined glimpse into the author’s head and his life. For these reasons, the book is more than worth a read.