Saturday, 21 August 2010

A mixed bag

I'm not yet managing a habit here, and again it means I'll end up rushing through writing up what I've been reading, just because I'd like this to be as up to date as possible, and if it was then perhaps I'd do better at keeping it that way.
First, my tomatoes.
What you can see there is my main tomato trough: the picture was taken around ten days ago, and it's all a bit bedraggled and sorry-looking. Since then I've had about 60 ripe tomatoes from it and there are more again still unripe, and of course several other plants scattered around the garden. I am rich with lycopene.
I alluded in my last post to book 38, The Second Shift, again by Hochschild, and in a way there's not much more to say about it than there was about The Time Bind. But then, it still seems worth saying again. She looks very carefully at time management and household resource decisions, particularly when it comes to which partner works and for how long, and then who takes care of the "second shift" of housework and childcare (with the basic contention that it is still (or was, when she was writing) the woman in a partnership who does most of this shift, regardless of how many hours each partner works in the "first shift"). Somehow it doesn't come across as raving irrational feminism, and in fact doesn't really make recommendations at all, but simply by observation and copious quotes makes a telling, and worrying, point.
I also mentioned RD Laing - 39 Sanity, madness and the family turned out to be a truly fascinating account of Laing's views about medical diagnoses of schizophrenia. It relates a little to the last book because it achieves so much of its power through direct quotes without all that much narrative or commentary from the authors. This technique might be seen as a little sneaky here because he has a reasonably controversial view - that "schizophrenia", while being a convenient term for a set of symptoms or behaviours, does not have causes typically identified by the medical profession, but instead describes thought patterns and "mystification" caused, or at least amplified to the point of distress, by family members and the way they relate to the sufferer. He uses examples of parents who have devised complex systems of communication to each other about the patient and conspicuously use these in front of her (including some really obvious nodding and winking) while at the same time insisting repeatedly that she is unfoundedly paranoid and has delusions that they are conspiring against her. Each chapter looks at a different patient, and several are followed with appendices of tables which contrast a patient's self-description, her parent's view in the same area, and the interviewer's observation.

As I say, fascinating, if not in itself convincing (it seems to need a companion volume with some real theory in it) and again quite troubling.

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