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A memorandum-book does not, provided it is neatly written, appear confused to an illiterate person, or to the owner who understands it thoroughly, but to any other person able to read it appears to be inextricably confused.

James Clerk Maxwell


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Friday, March 24th, 2006

Sociology

I am reading Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau currently, on the recommendation of Harry Brighouse. I like the slice-of-life aspect of it but the narrative style is kind of freaking me out. She switches constantly between a first-person where (as near as I can reckon) she is the narrator, and block-quoted observation notes in first-person where the narrator is the person who did the observation, who is never identified by name. I am finding this really frustrating, not to have an identity for the observer -- clearly there are several different people doing the observations but I have no way of distinguishing them, and it sounds like sometimes it it Dr. Lareau herself, but again no way to verify this. Maybe this is a standard style in sociology -- it just seems weird to me. The families being observed are named (though I don't know if they are real names or pseudonyms), so why not the observers?

posted evening of March 24th, 2006: Respond
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Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Non-fiction

I've never been much of a reader of non-fiction. Maybe part of the reason is I fear writing style like that found in Unequal Childhoods, which I finished the other day -- full of potentially useful information but written in such a way as to stymie concentration in even the most willing reader. But today I started Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel; if the first chapter is any basis for expectation, reading it will be a different story. His voice is clear, engaging, direct.

I've encountered Diamond's name a number of times over the years, mainly referred to by Crooked Timber posters, and always thought his stuff sounded interesting. I'm looking forward to this book. (And I realize on reflection that Crooked Timber has been responsible for encouraging a good deal of my non-fiction reading over the past couple of years.)

Note: Here is a Crooked Timber post with pointers to a wide-ranging controversy about GGS.

posted morning of March 30th, 2006: Respond

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