PASSAGES: The Predictable Crises of Adult Life by Gail Sheehy

PASSAGES: The Predictable Crises of Adult Life

Email this review


Struck by the failure of the age to do for adults "what Gesell and Spock did for children," Gall Sheehy recently undertook remedial measures in a much-discussed series of articles in New York magazine—installments of a larger taxonomic effort designed to confer on adults the benefits of the managing, measuring zeal that has transformed our perception of our children. The finished product will land with a not wholly unmerited splash. It incorporates a great deal of painstaking research, elaborate case histories, and a fair amount of common sense; it projects an empathy which some will find irresistible. The "Trying Twenties," the "Deadline Decade" of the Thirties, the sexual cross-purposes of the Forties will perhaps assume new intelligibility for some forlorn map-seekers, but they had better belong to the right scout troop. These are the lives of "America's 'pacesetter group'—healthy, motivated middle class people." That is, junior executives, copywriters, lawyers, urban-project directors, journalists. Conspicuously absent are not only the poor but the vast majority of the middle class: schoolteachers, policemen, secretaries, lab technicians. The implicit cultural value judgments of a selective urban stratum masquerade as objective assessment (able young people do not remain in small Midwestern towns except out of the premature "locking in" pattern which dooms the goats to other-directedness while the sheep go on to creative discovery). In the end the universal human voyage that Sheehy claims to be charting becomes indistinguishable from the tribal rites of people in one of William Hamilton's New Yorker cartoons.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1976
Publisher: Dutton