MARGARET MEAD: A Portrait by Edward Rice


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Rice writes this in the present tense, and frequently in short staccato sentences or sentence fragments. But these devices don't bring drama or immediacy to a biography that is clearly based on Mead's own, much better written recollections. Blackberry Winter, Letters from the Field, and to a lesser extent her earlier, popular books on the cultures she studied are quoted or paraphrased at length; and Rice doesn't provide any notable interpretation or information to make up for removing readers one step from these sources. We learn no more about her marriages than the little Mead chose to tell, yet Rice divides the years of her most significant fieldwork into chapters centering on her three marriages and titled, in turn, ""The Quadrangle"" (with her first husband and their two new mates), ""Growing Up with Reo"" (her second), and ""The Bateson Era."" The husbands, Rice feels, got short shrift because of Mead's prominence--a valid point perhaps (and his only original contribution), but does it justify reverse subordination? As for Mead's later years, Rice continues with his admiring tone but seems to dwell on her corniest and most trivial pronouncements. Of course, Margaret Mead's life and field work are bound to lend interest to the least inspired summary. But young people will be better off and more impressed by encountering Mead directly through her own eminently accessible works.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1980
Publisher: Harper & Row