33 PUBLISHED IDEAS
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Still, it wasn’t her babyhood, her lineage or her scholarship — an expert on classical Arabic poetry, she was as polymathic as her mother — that brought Dr. Bateson renown; it was her 1989 book “Composing a Life,” an examination of the stop-and-start nature of women’s lives and their adaptive responses — “life as an improvisatory art,” as she wrote.
Dr. Mead’s housekeeping techniques were also novel: When home, she cooked and ate dinner with her daughter but eschewed dishwashing, so as not to waste time that could be better spent with Mary Catherine or on her work. Day after day, dishes piled up in dizzying verticals “like a Chinese puzzle,” awaiting a maid who would arrive on Mondays, as Dr. Bateson recalled in an earlier book, “With a Daughter’s Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson” (1984).
The memoir is an affectionate yet sober portrait of two very complicated people. “One of the premises of the household in which I grew up,” Dr. Bateson wrote diplomatically, “was that there was no clear line between objectivity and subjectivity, that observation does not preclude involvement.”
At her death, Dr. Bateson was working on a book titled “Love Across Difference,” about how diversity of all stripes — gender, culture and nationality — can be a source of insight, collaboration and creativity.
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