Composing a Life (Plume)

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9780452265059: Composing a Life (Plume)

This extraordinary book explores that act of creation that engages us all--the compostition of our lives. Through the comparative biographies of herself and four of her close friends, Mary Catherine Bateson provides a fascinating framework for her inquiry into the creative potential of complex lives, where energies are not narrowly focused toward a single ambition but rather are continually refocused and redefined. Each of the women in "Composing a Life" faced discontinuity at periods in her life, yet was rich in professional achievement and personal relationships. Bateson's life-affirming conclusion is that life is an improvisational art form, and that the interruptions, conflicted priorities, and exigencies that are a part of all our lives can and should be seen as a source of wisdom. Important and empowering, "Composing a Life" will change lives. "Well-formulated and passionate...offers nothing less than a radical rethinking of the concept of achievement." -- "San Francisco Chronicle" "Bateson has written about women, but not just for women. Everyone can gain from this book."--Bill Moyers "The best book since Gail Sheehy's Passages for turning life's discontinuities into growth." --Stewart Brand "A literary form that reflects the way women commonly reason and talk." "The Boston Globe" "Truth steams behind the quiet elegance of these passages." -- "The New York Times Book Review"

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About the Author:

Mary Catherine Bateson is Clarence Robinson Professor of Anthropology and English at George Mason University. She has written on a variety of linguistic and anthropological topics and is the author of several books. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Today, the materials and skills from which a life is composed are no longer clear. It is no longer possible to follow the paths of previous generations. This is true for both men and women, but it is especially true for women, whose whole lives no longer need be dominated by the rhythms of procreation and the dependencies that these create, but who still must live with the discontinuities of female biology and still must balance conflicting demands. Our lives not only take new directions: they are subject to repeated redirection, partly because of the extension of our years of health and productivity. Just as the design of a building or of a vase must be rethought when the scale is changed, so must the design of lives. Many of the most basic concepts we use to construct a sense of self or the design of a life have changed their meanings: Work. Home. Love. Commitment.

It is not easy, putting on a new identity as a college president, to learn to express the new role without meeting a stranger in the mirror. Every day, said Johnnetta, who was once a campus radical in a black motorcycle jacket, she includes at least one detail in her clothing that defies conformity-a carved ivory janus-faced pendant, made as the emblem of a Liberian secret society; a cowrie-studded belt; or fabric hand-woven by a friend. All the issues of identity and presentation of self are complicated by the need to provide intelligible role models, for college presidents are supposed to project not only policies but lifestyles.

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Bateson, Mary Catherine
Editore: Plume
ISBN 10: 0452265053 ISBN 13: 9780452265059
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Mary Catherine Bateson
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