A Review of The Happy Valley

The Happy Valley by Eric BerneIf you ask anyone familiar with Transactional Analysis about works by Eric Berne, they will most likely say Games People Play. After all, this is arguably the most readable and certainly the most recognized work of his. And the catchy title helps as well.

What is less familiar is Berne’s “Children’s” book titled The Happy ValleyThe word “Children’s” is in quotations because this book, with its illustrations and animals with catchy names, appears geared for kids. However, the many layers and themes present make it so that adults can appreciate it too.

The Happy Valley received very little recognition in Berne’s lifetime and was not a big seller outside of the TA community. As of today, it is no longer being published. But that did not stop American author and essayist Jonathan Lethem from writing a brilliant review of the work in 2004. That review was titled The Loneliest Book I’ve Read.

Excerpt from Lethem’s Review

I’m writing today about the loneliest book I’ve read – lonely in the wonderful sense that I’ve still never met anyone else who’s ever read it. This has increasingly seemed a wonderful thing to me. I’ve learned to value, actually to crave, that old privacy which used to be my constant familiar when I read, whether I was still selecting children’s books or making my earliest explorations of the grownup’s shelves.

Like any book in the mind of a child, it had the authority of its existence, which was all it needed then. You had Alice In Wonderland , The Phantom TollboothThe Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and A Wrinkle In Time: I had all of these and The Happy Valley, too. For me it was just as deep as those books, equally as a singular and self-contained a fantasy. And unlike the others, it has never been decanted into adult context – no erotic photography or disguised Benjamin Disraeli, no Christian allegory, no disappointing movie adaptations.

To read the review in its entirety, you can see it on Jonathan Lethem’s website here.

The Happy Valley can be purchased from Amazon.com by going here.


Games People Play on Mad Men

If a book or film is seen on the popular series Mad Men, then it must have been influential at that time. Eric Berne’s Games People Play was featured prominently on an episode of Mad Men. Games was seen in Season 4, Episode 11, titled “Chinese Wall.”  The approximate time period for this episode is September 1965.  By late September 1965, Games People Play had been on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list for 9 weeks already.  No one, not even Berne himself, had expected his work to enter mainstream consciousness the way it did.

In this episode of Mad Men, Games is seen in the hands of psychologist Faye Miller who is romantically involved with Don Draper at that time.

Games People Play by Eric Berne on the Chinese Wall episode of Mad Men with Don Draper

Don Draper enters his apartment; psychologist Faye Miller is reading Games People Play and the hardcover version is resting on her lap. Screen shots courtesy of AMC – all rights reserved.

In the screenshot above, one can see the cover of Games People Play. The book is difficult to identify unless you know what you are looking for. However, nothing on Mad Men occurs by accident, so the placement of this book is intentional for both the time and the individual holding it.

Games People play by Eric Berne as seen on the Chinese Wall episode of Mad Men with Don Draper and Faye Miller

Psychologist Faye Miller is now sitting up to talk to Don Draper with Games People Play leaning against her. Eric Berne’s famous cover is clearly visible and is unmistakable. Screen shots courtesy of AMC – all rights reserved.

The scene then quickly moves to a dialogue between Don and Faye and Games is no longer visible.

Mad Men is critically acclaimed for its realistic depiction of life in the 1960s and closely follows current events. It is only fitting for Games to be featured in this episode, as its influence on mainstream America starting in 1965 was significant.

For a list of other famous books featured on this series, visit the Mad Men Book Club.  Note that none of these are related to Eric Berne or Transactional Analysis and this list in not affiliated with ericberne.com.