This excellent book begins as a biography and becomes, when the doctor suddenly dies of a ruptured appendix at the age of thirty-seven, a cultural history of his creation ... Why does something as abstract as a landscape have the power to make us feel so much? Because we have entered the world and allowed it to enter us. 'Our selves, refound in the world, are what we respond to,' Searls explains, 'feeling outward things as parts of us.' If that isn’t transhuman, I don’t know what is.
It is the fortunes of this humdrum test that Damion Searls charts in his impressively thorough, if somewhat dry book. The Inkblots is part biography of Hermann Rorschach, psychoanalytic supersleuth, and part chronicle of the test’s afterlife in clinical practice and the popular cultural imagination ... It is only toward the end of The Inkblots that Searls introduces research showing that when it comes to predicting human behavior, the Rorschach performs no better than chance. Up until this point, he treats the question of whether the test actually works or not as almost an incidental one, an abstract curiosity in his cultural history. But this is a mistake...the question of the Rorschach’s basic validity is not an interesting aside, but fundamental to the entire story ... Prioritizing the human beings impacted by this history would have made not only for a more readable book, but also a more responsible one.
...an exhaustively researched story of Rorschach’s brief life and an engaging consideration of his enduring test ... The Inkblots is tremendously rich. A Guggenheim and NEA fellow who specializes in translating Western European literature into English, the author probed unpublished letters, journals and other material to illuminate the way setting and circumstance influenced Rorschach’s life and work. Readers less enthusiastic about the clinical aspects of psychology and psychiatry may find themselves skimming certain sections, but such attention to detail also gives The Inkblots repeated moments of levity.