WITH A DAUGHTER'S EYE: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson by Mary Catherine Bateson
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WITH A DAUGHTER'S EYE: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson

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Mary Catherine Bateson didn't directly contribute to Jane Howard's massive biography of her mother, Margaret Mead (below)--to its detriment: as the daughter also of Gregory Bateson, a striking figure in his own right, and an anthropologist like both parents, she has knowledge and insights that altogether, and importantly, elude Howard. In a loosely chronological narrative, Bateson talks about her childhood as the first ""self-demand feeding"" baby--an innovation that combined Mead's observation of primitive mothers and clock-work recording; an experiment pursued, like others to follow, ""in a context of advocacy"" and of conviction (a significant point-of-difference from other Mead-interpreters) that her motives were pure, ""that she had been loved and could trust herself to love in turn, with a continuity of spontaneous feeling even where she was introducing variation."" It is against this conviction that Bateson sets other irregularities in her upbringing--especially the overlapping, extended families that substituted for an intact nuclear family (Mead and Bateson soon separated) and also enabled her mother to work and travel. Yet before high-school graduation she separated herself permanently from her mother--staying in Israel, taking the Middle East and linguistics as her own spheres (she shortly married an Armenian): ""In any quarrel between us, the thing that would have hurt her most, because it had been said so many times, would have been to accuse her of dominating me or interfering with my life."" Bateson also speaks, to forestall sensational disclosures (which Howard doesn't make), of her mother's continuing sexual relationship with her mentor, Ruth Benedict, and lifelong dual relationships with a man and a woman. Throughout she draws contrasts between her parents--Mead's fantasy-in-a-patch-of-moss, Bateson's world in an aquarium, her struggle for ""the moment of insight,"" his search for ""a formal framework of description""--and traces her own intellectual relationship to each. In recorded details or embodied ideas, there is the quest for pattern and celebration of diversity that consumed both. A bountiful and giving book.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1984
ISBN: 0060975733
Publisher: Morrow