Composing a Life

Bateson, Mary Catherine

Mary Catherine Bateson has been called "one of the most original and important thinkers of our time" (Deborah Tannen). Grove Press is pleased to reissue Bateson's deeply satisfying treatise on the improvisational lives of five extraordinary women. Using their personal stories as her framework, Dr. Bateson delves into the creative potential of the complex lives we live today, where ambitions are constantly refocused on new goals and possibilities. With balanced sympathy and a candid approach to what makes these women inspiring, examples of the newly fluid movement of adaptation--their relationships with spouses, children, and friends, their ever-evolving work, and their gender--Bateson shows us that life itself is a creative process. "Well-formulated and passionate ... Offers nothing less than a radical rethinking of the concept of achievement." -- San Francisco Chronicle "Fascinating ... A masterwork of rare breadth and particularity." -- The Boston Globe Uses the complex and varied lives of four women as well as the author's own to explore the work in progress, the life creatively lived. Editorial Reviews Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly By profiling five highly productive women--herself and four friends--Bateson, daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and author of With a Daughter's Eye , aims to shed light on personal and career obstacles women face in achieving success. All five women, she claims, have lived life as an improvisational art form. Her friends are Joan Erikson, dancer and craftsperson; Alice d'Entremont, electrical enginer for Skylab equipment and CEO of a high-tech firm; Ellen Bassuk, a psychiatrist who works with the homeless; and Johnnetta Cole, the first black woman president of Spelman College in Atlanta. Loosely intertwined with the subjects' lives are chapters devoted to topics such as marriage, homemaking, commitment, caretaking and the multiple roles women play. While the book's premise is intriguing, the telling is self-indulgent and only sporadically illuminates the author's themes. Author tour. (Oct.) Library Journal Bateson, an anthropologist who is the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, attempts to examine women's lives from a new perspective. Using her own life and those of several friends, all of whom have interesting, multifaceted careers, she looks at life as a work of improvisational art. Rather than a series of interruptions, she sees child rearing, career changes, divorce, etc., as creative opportunities and seeks a unifying thread in varied life experiences. This attempt to create theory from life is not accomplished; reading about these women in a work of collective biography would be worthwhile, but the bits and pieces of their lives that Bateson gives lead nowhere. This books lacks the clarity of her With a Daughter's Eye (LJ 8/84; one of LJ' s ``Best Books of 1984''). Women's studies collections may want to consider, but this is not an essential purchase.-- Barbara M. Bibel, Oakland P.L., Cal.

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